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How being a jack of all trades helped Jordie Barrett master the midfield

By Ned Lester
Jordie Barrett of New Zealand is tackled during the Autumn International match between Wales and New Zealand All Blacks at the Principality Stadium on November 05, 2022 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

When it comes to backlines, Jordie Barrett can service any area outside of the halves but the 26-year-old’s latest position looks to be his best yet; in 2022 the former fullback made a seamless transition into the midfield.


While it was a relatively quiet Super Rugby Pacific campaign for the youngest Barrett brother in his first full professional season at 12, his skillset has been more than influential in the All Blacks‘ season to date.

Since claiming the No 12 jersey in 2022’s Bledisloe Cup, Barrett’s physicality has given the All Blacks attack an element that has been sorely missed since the departure of Ngani Laumape; the crash and bash component.

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Barrett’s 1.96m 105kg frame is a handful for opposition defences, while his skillset adds a fourth kicking option to an All Blacks attack that has proven to be at its best when exercising an unpredictable game plan through the many playmakers it possesses.

Barrett credits his well-rounded skillset to his well-rounded rugby experience as a youngster when he played all over the backline.

“I think with me being quite versatile at a young age and playing almost every position in the backline,” Barrett told the Aotearoa Rugby Pod. “It gives you a good perspective of what other players want out of you and what you need out of them. So it was great for my growth and in some ways probably fast-tracking my footy IQ a wee bit.

“I just understood what was required in each position and what you need out of each other really. And I guess systematically, once you’re in multi-phase, 10, 12s, 15s, wingers even now, all the roles are interchangeable but it’s just those little things can mean a lot.


“Off set-piece, particularly with the way different teams are defending and the way you go in and game plan each week, now that changes from week to week and internationally it happens every week and you’ve got to adjust your game like that, but the versatility’s helped me in that aspect I feel.”


Prior to his injury, David Havili’s – another versatile fullback converted to second-five – kicking game unlocked rush defences by drawing the defensive line further in than just the first receiver, creating space in behind for a chip-kick.

That skill quickly became an essential for the All Blacks attack and demanded a skill most 12s around the country hadn’t fully developed.

When Barrett got his chance in the midfield, his kicking ability serviced that need while his size offered the ability for a more direct running game as well.


Once Havili returned from injury, he was utilised off the bench on last year’s Northern Tour and was unable to reclaim his starting role. Havili was again injured and missed the recent Rugby Championship while Barrett furthered his case for a starting gig at the World Cup and despite Havili’s return, all signs point to Barrett being the man for the job.


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Shaylen 5 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

These guys will be utility players Nick it cannot be helped because coaches cannot help themselves. Rassie looks at players like these and sees the ability to cover multiple positions without losing much. It allows the 6-2 or 7-1. He wont change his coaching style or strategy for one player. At provincial level players like these are indispensable. If there is an injury to your starting 12 but your back up 12 is a bit iffy then a coach is going to go with the back up 10 who is gold and who can play a good 12. Damian Willemse for the Springboks is an obvious case, for the Stormers its the same. Dobson plays him at 12 or 15, with Gelant in the team he plays 12 but if Gelant goes down he doesnt go for his back up 15, he just puts Willemse there. With Frawley its the same at international and provincial level. He just slots in wherever. Frans Steyn made a career out of it. He was much maligned though as a youngster as he never fully developed into any role. He then went to Japan and France to decide for himself what kind of player he was, put on muscle and retained his big boot, ran over players and booted the ball long and came back into the Springboks after about 3 years away and was then certain about how he wanted to play the game no matter what position. Coaches cannot help themselves because they only want what is best for their teams and that means putting your most talented players on even if it means you cause them some discomfort. Sometimes players need to decide how they want to play the game and then adapt that to every position and let the coach decide how they want to use them.

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Jon 11 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

I think the main problem here is the structure of both countries make up. They are going to have very similar.. obstacles(not problems). It will just be part of the evolution of their rugby and they’ll need to find a way to make this versatility more advantageous than specialization. I think South Africa are well on the way to that end already, but Ireland are more likely to have a hierarchical approach and move players around the provinces. Ioane is going to be more than good enough to lock up one of those available positions for more than a few years I believe though. Morgan would definitely be a more long term outlook. Sacha to me has the natural footwork of a second five. Not everything is about winning, if a team has 3 players that want to play 10s just give them all a good go even if its to the detriment of everyone, this is also about dreams of the players, not just the fans. This is exactly how it would be in an amateur club setting. Ultimately some players just aren’t suited to any one position. The example was of a guy that had size and speed, enough pace to burn, power to drive, and speed to kick and pass long, but just not much else when it came to actual rugby (that matched it). New Zealand has it’s own example with Jordie Barrett and probably shows what Reece Hodge could have been if the game in Australia had any administration. Despite the bigger abundance of talent in NZ, Jordie was provided with consistent time as a fullback, before being ushered in as a second five. Possibly this was due to his blood, and another might not have been as fortunate, but it is what it was, a complete contrast to how Hodge was used in Australia, were he could have had any position he wanted. When it comes down to it though, much like these young fellas, it will be about what they want, and I think you’ll find they’ll be like Hodge and just want to be as valuable to the team as they can and play wherever. It’s not like 63 International Cap is a hard thing to live with as a result of that decision!

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