All Black Beauden Barrett has made a shock confession as he eyes up his return to New Zealand later this season after completing his sabbatical with Suntory Sungoliath in the Japanese Top League.
The Blues playmaker conceded that he wasn’t the best fullback in the country last year, despite playing in the 15 jumper for most of the All Blacks season. His lone appearance in the familiar 10 jersey came in Brisbane as the All Blacks lost 24-22 to the Wallabies.
Speaking to Stuff.co.nz in a wide-ranging interview, Barrett said he bought into ‘the system’ that required two 10s in the 10 and 15 positions but confirmed that it is all it was, and he had a desire to return to 10 full-time.
“I’ve always wanted to be team first [but] I guess this 10-15 thing has been a system selection,” he told Stuff.
“I’ve got no doubt I wasn’t the best out and out No 15 for the All Blacks, especially with Jordie [Barrett] and Damo [Damian McKenzie] around last year.
“But the way we wanted to play I could understand that and I bought into that.
“But going forward there’s no hiding from the fact that Damian and Jordie and Will [Jordan] are all playing great rugby.
Damian McKenzie has been one of the form players in Super Rugby Aotearoa for the resurgent Chiefs, along with both Jordie Barrett and Will Jordan, making for a congested field for the All Blacks 15 jersey.
Both McKenzie and Jordie Barrett are goal kicking options, while the try-scoring exploits of Jordan cannot be ignored with another double against the Blues over the weekend taking his tally to 19 Super Rugby tries in 26 games.
Should Barrett look to win back the 10 jersey he held from 2016 to 2019, he will have to oust Crusaders dynamo Richie Mo’unga who has had another stellar Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign as he chases his fifth title with the Christchurch-based franchise.
In Barrett’s favour is the fact that he has produced consistently at an extremely high level in the All Blacks environment for the better part of a decade, winning two World Player of the Year awards as a 10 in 2016 and 2017.
One of the criticisms aimed at Richie Mo’unga is we are yet to see the same Super Rugby form on a consistent basis at the international level.
The Crusaders flyhalf most memorable outing was a starring two-try performance against the Wallabies in Sydney last year, where the All Blacks thrashed a hapless side 43-5 with 19-year-old debutant Noah Lolesio pulling the strings at 10.
Just as it seemed that Mo’unga had found dominant form at the next level, that performance was followed up with a disappointing loss to the Pumas in Western Sydney.
29-year-old Barrett will be looking to jump straight into the All Blacks environment from the Top League, which he was confident of being able to do.
“I’d fully back myself,” Barrett said.
“Obviously we have a two-week quarantine period when we have to maintain fitness levels and then two or three weeks before our first game if we are selected in the All Blacks.
Barrett’s confidence was backed up by former Crusaders coach Robbie Deans earlier this month, who coaches the Panasonic Wild Knights in the Top League and is well aware of the standard of play.
Deans believed that there is no doubt that Barrett can go from playing in the Top League to playing test rugby for the All Blacks having seen Sam Whitelock and Matt Todd already make the same transition.
“Of course they can,” Deans told Newstalk ZB’s Martin Devlin.
“And you’ve seen it in the last two years. You saw it with Matt Todd, he was chosen for the All Blacks from Panasonic, you saw it with Sam Whitelock when he came back for that [The Rugby Championship] campaign last year.
“[Whitelock] was pre-maturely included due to Covid last year. He went back and played the house down in Super Rugby last year and won another title.
“Yes, is the answer.”
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