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Steve Hansen discusses 'biggest positive' from All Blacks' 2022 campaign

By Finn Morton
(Photo credit should read MARTY MELVILLE/AFP via Getty Images)

Two-time Rugby World Cup winner Sir Steve Hansen has compared utility back Jordie Barrett to two All Blacks greats following his stunning switch to the midfield last year.

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Barrett, who is the younger brother of fellow All Blacks Beauden and Scott, is one of the most important players in New Zealand rugby today.

Make no mistake, his versatility is simply invaluable to a team who expects nothing short of excellence.

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After bursting onto the Test rugby scene as an outside back against the British and Irish Lions six years ago, Barrett rapidly rose to world class status in the coveted black jersey.

Star Barrett shone in the No. 15 jumper, and had seemingly made that jersey his own before an intriguing positional switch.

Barrett was given his first opportunity to start a test match in the midfield last year, as the All Blacks went head-to-head with rivals Australia at Eden Park.

And he didn’t skip a beat.

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Fast forward to the All Blacks’ end-of-season tour to Japan and the UK, and Barrett had clearly shot up the depth chart at inside centre.

In fact, legendary coach Steve Hansen has described Barrett’s switch to the midfield as “the biggest positive” from last year.

“The biggest positive from 2022 was Jordie Barrett at second five-eighth,” Hansen told Newstalk ZB earlier this week.

“He’s the man we’ve been looking for for quite some time to fill in that slot. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s fast. He’s got a great passing game. A wonderful kicker of the ball.

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“Defensively he loves to get in amongst it and make the big this and has the size to do it for you.

“He’s a wonderful communicator, and both the 10s, whoever is playing, are going to benefit when they have a good 12 outside them who is prepared to communicate.

“He’s also a player that if nothing’s on, you can just give it to Jordie, and he’s cart it, like back in the day with Ma’a (Nonu) and Sonny (Bill Williams) sometimes. He gives us that option too, because he’s such a big athlete.”

The All Blacks are expected to win every time they take the field. Considering the legacy of the famous black jersey, there no exceptions.

But the pressure and scrutiny that follows the All Blacks will simply go up a gear throughout 2023, with this year’s World Cup nigh on the horizon.

Whether it’s at fullback or potentially inside centre, Barrett will play a crucial role as the men in black look to bring the Webb Ellis Cup back to a rugby-mad nation.

Following his first test start in the midfield last year, Barrett spoke about how much he “loved” playing in the No. 12 jersey.

“Certainly loved it,” Barrett said. “Any opportunity I get to start with a black jersey, it’s awesome.

“Look I’m not sure what’s going to happen going forward but I just love being out there and getting an opportunity to go out there with the boys.

“It’s a lot easier when (numbers) one to eight do an outstanding job and you’re running off the back of some outstanding ball so they made my job a lot easier tonight.

“I had the luxury of Nuggy (Aaron Smith) and Richie (Mo’unga), some world-class backs inside me, and Rieks (Ioane) and Beaudy (Barrett) and the rest of the boys outside, they made my job a lot easier tonight.”

The All Blacks begin their World Cup campaign in the tournament opener against hosts France in about eight months’ time.

World No. 2 Les Bleus, who went unbeaten throughout their entire 2022 season, are among the favourites for next year’s tournament.

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