'Probably his biggest work-on': Foster's challenge to Barrett
Barrett was a surprise selection in the No 15 jersey when the All Blacks team for this weekend’s clash was named on Friday.
By being named, Barrett takes the fullback spot from the incumbent Damian McKenzie, who has been demoted to the bench as he covers for Beauden Barrett as the squad’s back-up first-five due to Richie Mo’unga’s family-enforced absence.
McKenzie has started four of the five All Blacks tests this year and was the favourite to start again this week, while Barrett has started just once, against Fiji in Dunedin in July.
Speaking to media shortly after the team announcement, Foster said McKenzie had impressed with his playmaking attributes, but added that Barrett warranted selection due to his training performances.
“I think, Jordie, he’s obviously a guy who’s been training hard, he’s been keen looking for an opportunity,” Foster said.
“We’ve been pretty happy with Damian at the back, in terms of the way he comes in and influences the first receiver role and some of his decision-making from behind, but Jordie, again, we know is a quality player.”
However, Foster said that while Barrett has an outstanding array of skills that make him an accomplished footballer, he encouraged the 24-year-old to follow McKenzie’s lead and provide a calm demeanour from the back on Sunday.
“We get asked a lot of questions, decision-making-wise, in attack and defence at 15, and I think that’s something that is probably his biggest work-on,” Foster said of Barrett.
“We know he’s a great individual athlete who can do some pretty special things, and it’s just about bringing that calmness at the back, and making sure that we have real clarity with the ball and without the ball.
“But, I’m really delighted with how he’s prepared. He’s going well. We’ve got a lot of faith in him, and there’s a nice little battle going there at fullback.”
That cool nature could prove vital to the All Blacks’ chances of success in Australia, where they have just a 50 percent winning record over the Wallabies in the last 10 years.
The last time these two teams squared off in Perth, the Wallabies recorded their biggest ever score against the All Blacks – what could be on the cards for Sunday? #AUSvNZL #AllBlacks #Wallabies pic.twitter.com/j0dgZA7TBx
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 3, 2021
Foster didn’t shy away from the fact that that record had been talked about frequently by the All Blacks in the lead-up to this test.
“It’s certainly mentioned. It’s been something that we haven’t been very good at, and I think if you look at the past 10 years, I think we’ve only clean swept them three times in 10 years,” he said.
“It’s an achievement that’s obviously a little bit harder than what everyone thinks it is because we haven’t done it that often.
“It has revealed that, subconsciously, we don’t really switch well from a Bledisloe Cup series to a Rugby Championship series because the reality is we’re just moving on from the Cup because that’s already done.
“We’re into a Rugby Championship here, and our first game over here is against Australia, and so we know the significance of it.
“So, the fact that it’s a challenge that we haven’t done a lot in the past is important to us and it’s certainly something we’d like to achieve, but we’re under no illusions that past results mean a lot when you go into test matches with Australia.”
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