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Jordie Barrett tipped to retain All Black 12 jersey despite pressure from Havili and RTS

By Ben Smith
Hurricanes' Jordie Barrett (L) dives over to score a try during the Super Rugby match between the Melbourne Rebels and Wellington Hurricanes at the AAMI Park in Melbourne on March 3, 2023. (Photo by William WEST / AFP via Gettys Images)

Three candidates for the All Blacks second five-eighth position put their hands up with starring performances in round two of Super Rugby Pacific.

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Jordie Barrett of the Hurricanes, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck of the Blues and the Crusaders’ David Havili all put in commanding performances in the Super Round to demonstrate their abilities.

Barrett logged 15 carries against the Rebels while coming up with the match-winning try and one try assist, Havili showed his all-round game with two line breaks, a try and two try assists against the Highlanders.

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Tuivasa-Sheck showed his power running and explosive agility for the Blues on 11 carries while bringing some bruising defence with 10 tackles against the Brumbies.

The Crusaders No 12 was given the performance of the round by Sky Sport NZ’s The Breakdown panel and it was the combination with All Black first five Richie Mo’unga which really shined.

“He’s a class act, isn’t he?” John Kirwan said of Havili.

“But I’m going to keep talking about it all year, what are we going to do at 12?

“But the thing I like about him, and this might be the deciding factor, is when he is outside Richie Mo’unga, I think he has got a bigger voice and Richie can use him for his kicking game.

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“He was outstanding and you know he’s only been playing there a few years as well.”

Havili’s play of the night was a banana kick across the ruck to find Mo’unga for a try under the posts early in the second half. The set plan worked to perfection and his kick was accurately placed for his 10 to jump on.

The No 12 also had a nice piece of support play backing up a break by Mo’unga, linking in for two touches downfield to put fullback Fergus Burke in for a try and then burst onto a flat ball off his halfback to score one of his own late in the game.

Sky Sport NZ Commentator Tony Johnson praised the performance of Havili but when it came to the All Blacks, Johnson felt that the coaches have tipped their hand with their preferred midfield candidate.

As a former fullback, Havili’s versitality should place him in the mix for a back-up role or bench role with multiple positions to cover.

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“He is a quality player and quality person, David Havili, he brings leadership,” Johnson said.

“As he has made it clear, this is the role he wants.

“I think he is in the picture [for the All Blacks] and what he brings is versatility as well, he can play two or three different positions.

“I feeling I get is they definitely see Jordie as the guy that is the front runner for the 12 jersey, he [Havili] is very much going to be part of the setup for this team.”

Ex-All Black winger Kirwan felt that Barrett has the edge over Havili purely based on size and his ability to smash the ball up and find front foot ball.

Despite all the skills that Barrett brings, at the end of the day it was about power and size in the midfield.

“Since Ma’a, we’ve just wanted someone to give the ball and get over the advantage line. That’s what Jordie brings,” Kirwan said.

“You think about all his other skills, good kicking, but that is he what he brought last year.”

Following injuries to Chiefs second five Quinn Tupaea and Havili during a ten minute period in Melbourne against the Wallabies, Barrett moved into No 12 for the return test at Eden Park and immediately impressed.

He carried that form into tests against Wales and England in the 12 jersey which convinced the New Zealand rugby public he was a legitimate option for the All Blacks in the midfield.

Former All Black No 8 Stephen Bates responded to Kirwan by questioning the decision to let one of New Zealand’s most powerful ball carriers leave if what the All Blacks wanted from a 12 was positive gain line.

“It’s interesting you say that because the guy that gets you straight over the gain line left a couple of years ago, Laumape,” Bates said.

“And people would say oh he’s a little bit one-dimensional, but if your one dimension is awesome, why do you need a second dimension?

“This is what I’m going to do, pass the ball to Laumape and going to smash over the gain line. Good luck.

“And then everything flows from there. If your one dimension is awesome, that’s good enough you know.”

 

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Comments

10 Comments
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Nickers 467 days ago

JB at 12 is one of about 3 ABs roles that isn't even up for debate. You can't compare SR to international rugby. It is a very big step up these days. JB is a world class midfielder who can do it all and people can't wait to replace him with players who have a long history of mediocrity at international level.

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Another 467 days ago

The question of who plays at 12 is really a question of who combines the best with players inside and outside of him. The whole midfield has to function.

Havilli combines well with Mo’unga on a creative level but both players need a disciplined 13 outside them to keep the line straight. It works with Goodhue outside them, but not so much with Ioane.

Jordan Barrett, however, does the straightening role himself, and usually can offload after the gain-line - which allows Ioane to run off him.

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Spew_81 468 days ago

J Barrett is the only real option at 12 for the All Blacks.

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flyinginsectshrimp 468 days ago

Yeah, no one's unseating Jordie Barrett at 12 for the next 5 seasons through to RWC 2027.

I imagine he's a good chance for AB captain post-Cane — hopefully he gets the job at the Hurricanes next year.

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Andrew 469 days ago

Nonsense. Neither of RTS or Havili are putting pressure on Jordie. Havili is one of thise Steven Pokere types...a talent but not quite the goods to nail down a test position. RTS is simply NOT a rugby midfielder. He needs to be a wing or FB. ALB is the only credible midfield backup at the moment.

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