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The abnormal stat that shows signs of a deliberate plan for Beauden Barrett

By Ben Smith
Beauden Barrett of the Blues arrives at the round six Super Rugby Pacific match between Chiefs and Blues at FMG Stadium Waikato, on April 01, 2023, in Hamilton, New Zealand. (Photo by Michael Bradley/Getty Images)

All Blacks first five-eighth Beauden Barrett is pushing through his final season in New Zealand with the Blues and continues to come under fire for his uncharacteristic performances.

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With one final chance at the Rugby World Cup later this year, Barrett has to be forgiven for working to a clear preservation plan to get him there.

There is one stat in particular that indicates clearly what is going on with Barrett this season.

With nine games of Super Rugby and 720 minutes of action played, he has made just 20 tackles all season. That is one every 36 minutes, almost a half a game of rugby.

He went through one fixture against the Hurricanes in round three without logging a single tackle or tackle attempt.

Combined with the most kicks in the competition it is clear Barrett is working to a plan to come through this Super Rugby season unscathed.

And that should be accepted by the New Zealand rugby public as a necessary means to an end.

The 31-year-old’s illustrious international career includes two World Rugby Player of the Year crowns, the 2015 Rugby World Cup, countless Bledisloe Cups and Rugby Championships. He has done it all.

As cold as it sounds, no one will remember much about Super Rugby Pacific when they look back on 2023, nor Barrett’s efforts for the Blues.

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That he is still even on the field is pushing it. Johnny Sexton has already been wrapped in cotton wool by Leinster and Ireland.

South Africa’s inspirational captain Siya Kolisi has gone down with a serious injury, and is now in a race against the odds to even be on the field in France.

Barrett has one final chance in his lifetime to make a World Cup run with the All Blacks, like a few others in the side. He does not need to play.

The 113-cap All Black still showed he can turn it on when needed, with a chip and chase coming off his own line against the Crusaders that nearly produced a length of the field special. He tore apart the Rebels to shake off doubts earlier in the season.

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Even so, attacking magic won’t be what wins a World Cup for New Zealand. He doesn’t need to be in career-best dazzling form.

Of all the All Black first fives, Barrett is the biggest body and is the most defensively sound. He has saved as many Test tries as he has scored over his career.

France, Ireland, and South Africa are all defensively bruising sides who don’t give up a lot of points. Ireland are the best of them.

The All Blacks need to tighten the screws with their defence more than anything.

The Melbourne and Twickenham Tests against Australia and England last year were colossal collapses down the stretch. A repeat of those showings will see the All Blacks bow out of the Cup.

In defence of the embattled first five, Blues coach Daniel Halangahu told Stuff.co.nz: “People want to see him, but I think everyone wants the World Cup trophy in the cabinet a little more.”

Let the Barrett preservation plan continue.

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