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Jordie Barrett's midfield move 'not a matter of if, it's a matter of when'

By Tom Vinicombe
(Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

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Just when it looks like Jordie Barrett has well and truly locked down the No 15 jersey for New Zealand and come of age in the black jersey, the 24-year-old has revealed he’s not sold on playing out his career at fullback.

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Barrett – who made his All Blacks debut when he was just 20 years old – first burst onto the scene for Canterbury in the 2016 ITM Cup and was named New Zealand’s Provincial Player of the Year. That season, he made six appearances at fullback but it was his performances in the midfield that really stood out and the youngest Barrett brother was selected as an apprentice on the All Blacks’ end-of-year tour.

The following season, Barrett made his debut for the Hurricanes in the No 15 jersey and that’s where he has since been primarily utilised at both Super Rugby and international level.

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Former All Blacks prop John Afoa reflects on his career
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Former All Blacks prop John Afoa reflects on his career

In 2021, Barrett was ostensibly going head-to-head with Damian McKenzie to lock down the fullback role for the All Blacks and he emerged as the first choice in the position by the middle of the year and started there in NZ’s four biggest games of the season against South Africa (twice), Ireland and France.

Speaking on the latest episode of James Marshall’s What a Lad podcast, however, Barrett has confirmed that a positional change into the midfield is very much on the cards in the near future.

“I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t spent a few hours in this quarantine hotel thinking about my transition into 12 – something I might do at some stage, whether it’s this year or next year or further down the track,” Barrett said.

“I was a 12 growing up, [it was where I played] most of my footy. I feel like my skillset suits that. Who knows? I guess I’ve got the next month and a half to figure out which avenue I’ll go down but look, I’m happy with the way I’m going at 15 but got a serious eye to playing 12 at some stage so probably not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.”

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The midfield is perhaps the biggest problem area for the All Blacks at present, with former coach Steve Hansen struggling to decide on a first-choice combination heading into the last World Cup, and his successor, Ian Foster, also seemingly unsure of the best pairing to carry NZ through to the next tournament in 2023.

While David Havili was the most frequently selected No 12 for the team this season, he was constantly asked to truck the ball up in the midfield when his game is one based less on power and more on subtle skills and playmaking.

Barrett, to his credit, boasts a similarly balanced skillset to Havili but also backs that up with a solid frame and could be a revolution in the midfield at international level.

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It’s a move that would also make sense for the Hurricanes, who could then utilise both Jackson Garden-Bachop and up-and-coming utility Ruben Love in the same backline if Barrett were to shift from fullback to the midfield.

Barrett has been used across the backline at all levels of the game and while he clearly possesses the talent to play in multiple positions, the focus on one role has helped him grow as a player. Perhaps now is the time to see how he can grow in a position where NZ are somewhat short of fool-proof options.

Ironically, Damian McKenzie also joined theĀ What a LadĀ podcast recently and confirmed he too was seriously considering a position switch.

Listen to Jordie Barrett’s interview on the What A Lad podcast below:

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