'It's a bit overdue': Jason Holland explains the return of Hurricanes half-centurion and sheds light on Jordie Barrett conundrum
The Hurricanes, like many other New Zealand Super Rugby teams, have a little bit of a pickle on their hands.
In some positions, they’re bursting to the seams with talent – that’s allowed them to regularly rest and rotate some of their key players while never having to field an underdeveloped line-up.
There is, however, one player in their side that’s so integral to the team’s success, they simply can’t afford to be rested.
That player is All Blacks outside back Jordie Barrett, who’s started every match this season at fullback – as well as the Hurricanes’ final six games in last year’s competition, once he returned from a niggling back injury.
Barrett is such a key cog in the Hurricanes line-up, thanks in part to his excellent playmaking skills – which are integral thanks to the absence of an experienced No 10 – but also due to his deadly goalkicking.
The 24-year-old likely has the biggest boot in the country and is a threat anywhere inside the attacking half, which is likely why Hurricanes coach Jason Holland has been so resistant to resting his star player.
With bonus points likely to factor into which teams make the grand final of Super Rugby Trans-Tasman, Holland has been reluctant to give Barrett a break – and the toughest matches are still ahead for the Wellingtonians.
That’s not to say that Holland has overlooked the issue entirely, however.
“We’ve looked to release Jordie of the last 15 minute of the last couple of games,” Holland said following Thursday’s team naming, “but yeah it’s definitely something we’re aware of.
“And he’s a bit of a greyhound in that he wants to keep going – and he goes pretty well. We’ll keep being smart about it.”
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Barrett will again line up at fullback when the Hurricanes takes on the Western Force in Napier this weekend but if his side sew the match up early, Barrett may find himself called to the sidelines with 22-year-old Billy Proctor likely to take his place at the back of the field.
There’s another familiar figure on the bench for the Hurricanes this weekend too, with Vince Aso set to make his first appearance of the year.
The 51-cap utility back has been a regular in the Hurricanes midfield over the past few years but found his spot being occupied by youngsters Proctor and Peter Umaga-Jensen last season.
He’s one of the many players in the squad who are victims of the team’s significant depth in a number of positions, including the outside backs – but with a handful of club games under his belt, Holland now believes it’s time for Aso to shine.
“He’s had three or four club games now and been sharp in all of them,” Holland said. “He’s just another option for us on the wing and he’s been dying to get an opportunity and he’s worked himself into a space now where he can play Super footy through his club games and what he’s done here. It’s a bit overdue but it’s good to see him out there.”
Aso’s and Proctor’s abilities to cover multiple positions leaves the home team in good stead for Friday’s match, with plenty of options for how to deploy the backline.
“We’ve got Billy on the bench as well so it gives us flexibility there,” said Holland. “Obviously, if we had a winger go off in the first 10 minutes, Vinny would go onto the wing.
“As far as later in the game, we have flexibility to do what we feel there. Vinny’s all over the centre role and the wing role and Billy’s all over the 13 and 15 roles so they can slot in whatever we need.”
Friday’s match kicks off at 7:05pm NZT from Napier.
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