The Barrett brothers, Beauden, Scott and Jordie, are arguably three of the greatest ever rugby exports out of Taranaki. Finally, after an exceptionally long wait, the youngest two brothers will now have the opportunity to lace up their boots for their home province in the Mitre 10 Cup.
Scott and Jordie both started their provincial careers with Canterbury, having moved south at the end of high school to attend Lincoln University. The pair both signed with Taranaki from 2017 but, with national representatives rarely granted opportunities to play in New Zealand’s provincial competition, neither has been sighted in the amber and black jersey as yet.
That’s set to change this year, with All Blacks to be available for their local teams for at least a couple of matches during the early stages of the Mitre 10 Cup.
“The other day, I was actually sitting there thinking about the team [Taranaki] would have and playing with my two brothers… So that’d be pretty cool, I reckon,” Jordie told RugbyPass earlier this year.
“Last year I think there was a period where I didn’t play a game for six weeks. That was when I was in the ABs environment and, obviously, you can’t argue with their planning and they’ve got their way of thinking.
“At the time, Mitre 10 Cup was going on and you just want to be back with your province and playing some footy. So, any opportunity anyone gets to play for their province, they love it. I’d certanly snap at the opportunity to play for Taranaki this year.”
Jordie’s wish has evidently been granted and with he and Scott set to earn their Taranaki debuts – and Beauden likely to play his first game for the Bulls since 2012 – the 2014 champions will have plenty of experience in their squad for the season ahead.
While no player named in Willie Rickards’ team has played a half-century of matches for Taranaki, there’s a strong Super Rugby presence in the squad, with 17 players turning out for the five franchises across the country over the past year.
That includes Ben May, who’s signed with Taranaki for the first time, having previously represented Tasman, Waikato, Wellington and Hawke’s Bay. May, sitting on over 90 provincial and 120 Super Rugby caps, will complement Ricky Riccitelli and Bradley Slater’s experience in the front row, with a raft of young props also selected – as well as All Blacks tourist Reuben O’Neill and Samoan representative Donald Brighouse.
Three of the out-and-out locks in the squad have recently been selected for the New Zealand Under 20s side, including Tupou Vaa’i, who is set to start for the North Island side in this weekend’s North v South exhibition. Vaa’i could be partnered with fellow Chief Mitch Brown for the season but keep an eye out for young gun Josh Lord. Scott Barrett is still sidelined with a foot injury and in a worst-case scenario, could miss the entire season. If he does recover in time for the international matches, however, All Blacks coach Ian Foster would likely use the Mitre 10 Cup to get the big man up to speed.
The loose forwards are again a position of strength for Taranaki. The Chiefs trio of Brown, Lachlan Boshier and Pita Gus Sowakula will be expected to get through a mountain of work but Tom Florence, who earned a solitary cap for the Highlanders this season, and Kaylum Boshier (Lachlan’s younger brother) have both impressed through the age-grades.
With Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi now with Bay of Plenty, Lisati Milo-Harris will compete with the experienced Kylem O’Donnell for the starting halfback role.
Re-signing with @HurricanesRugby was an easy decision for Jordie Barrett but the original move north from Canterbury took some guts.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) August 10, 2020
Daniel Waite is the sole fulltime first-five named in the team – but Rickards could opt to start a number of players in that role, including either of the two Barretts, Jayson Potroz or Stephen Perofeta, once he’s fit again.
Further out, Taranaki stalwarts such as Codey Rei, Sean Wainui and Teihorangi Walden will be shuffled throughout the backline while Kini Naholo will provide some power and pace on the wing, though he is currently recovering from surgey.
Young Jacob Kneepkens, who played in last year’s NZ secondary schools team, is another outside back that could shine this season, with a bit of support from the experienced heads in the squad.
Taranaki play a pre-season match against Waikato this Friday but kick their regular season off against Bay of Plenty on Sunday 13 September.
Hookers: Mills Sanerivi, Ricky Riccitelli, Bradley Slater
Props: Ben May, Donald Brighouse, Chris Gawler, Reuben O’Neill, Jared Proffit
Locks: Scott Barrett, Jack Jordan, Fin Hoeata, Josh Lord, Tupou Vaa’i
Loose forwards: Lachlan Boshier, Kaylum Boshier, Mitch Brown, Johnny Faletagoa’i, Tom Florence, Pita Gus Sowakula
Halfbacks: Warwick Lahmert, Lisati Milo-Harris, Kylem O’Donnell
First fives: Beauden Barrett, Daniel Waite, Stephen Perofeta
Centres: Lukas Halls, Teihorangi Walden, Sean Wainui, Jacob Kneepkens, Lewis Ormond
Outside backs: Jordie Barrett, Brayton Northcott-Hill, Kini Naholo, Jayson Potroz, Cody Rei
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