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The Hurricanes rookie putting pressure on Jordie Barrett's fullback spot

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by DAVE LINTOTT/AFP via Getty Images)

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Following his hat-trick against the Fijian Drua, Hurricanes assistant coach Cory Jane says rookie Josh Moorby has put Jordie Barrett under pressure to remain at fullback.

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Moorby was a standout for the Hurricanes as the Wellington-based franchise pummelled the Drua 67-5 at Sky Stadium on Sunday to move to within three points of a top four spot.

In addition to his three tries, Moorby also bagged a try assist, ran the most metres (143) and made the most clean breaks (four) of any player in the match, and beat seven defenders to cap off a spellbinding attacking display in the Kiwi capital.

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Aotearoa Rugby Pod | Episode 12
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That effort is a continuation of the good form shown by the 23-year-old Southland fullback in his debut Super Rugby Pacific campaign.

Afforded few starting opportunities this season given the might of the Hurricanes’ outside backs stocks – headlined by Barrett, Julian Savea, Salesi Rayasi, Ruben Love and Wes Goosen – Moorby has taken his chances with aplomb.

A try on debut against Moana Pasifika in March was followed by another try in just his second start, against the Crusaders, a fortnight later.

However, Moorby’s best performance of the year undoubtedly came against the Drua two days ago, leading Jane to suggest that the Hurricanes may look to play Barrett at second-five to accomodate for Moorby in the starting team.

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“He’s been great. Ever since he came in here, he understands rugby, and that’s cool to get those guys who you can see it, but also his fitness, his anticipation for the game – he just doesn’t stay in one spot,” Jane said of Moorby on Tuesday.

“He likes to get involved and get around. He’s got an eye for the space and for the ball, and so he’s been good. Obviously he’s playing well at fullback, but he can play wing.

“We’ve got an All Black at fullback, too, that he’s pressuring. I think Jordie was inside before starting to sweat,” Jane joked, “but it’s good, actually, to see Moorbs get out there and play well. It’s his first time in here and he’s had a great season so far.

“I think it’s handy. When Jordie played those few games at 12, he just brought a different mindset to us. He’s quite physical, and having a guy that can jump at the fullback spot and do well kind of gives us opportunities to play Jordie at 12.

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“Obviously he’s still a pretty good fullback as well, so we don’t want to take that away from him, but it does give us options.”

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As Jane alluded to, Moorby is as adept at fullback as he is on the wing, just as Barrett offers plenty both at fullback and second-five, which is where has played three times this season.

It’s for that reason that Moorby is happy to play wherever the Hurricanes coaches see fit, but is optimistic about further starting opportunities as the season heads towards its business end.

“It’s up to them [the coaches] and I’ve just got to, hopefully, string together a few good performances and hopefully can get a few more starts,” Moorby said on Tuesday.

Ironically, Barrett has been a key figure in Moorby’s development as a Super Rugby Pacific player, and it may be that the 36-test All Black’s influence on the Hurricanes newbie could result in a move back into the midfield.

“He’s a great guy. Obviously, when you first come in, you watch them on TV and you know what they’re capable of, but Jordie, honestly, can’t speak anything badly about him,” Moorby said of Barrett.

“He’s been awesome. As soon as I’d come in the group, under his wing, and just learning from him has been great.”

Whether or not that positional switch will come to fruition in light of Moorby’s eye-catching form remains to be seen, although it may come as early as this weekend when the Hurricanes face the Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday.

Jane acknowledged that the Waratahs have grown as the season has worn on, and that the Hurricanes will have to be on their game to prevent Darren Coleman’s side from notching a third consecutive win in the race for a top four finish.

“We can take what we did during the week because you train, you have a game plan, you try do it during the week so you can put it out there on the field. The boys have shown they can do that now,” Jane said.

“Obviously the Waratahs are completely different than the Drua in the way they’re playing, but we’ve got a big day of training today and again on Thursday.

“What we come in with a game plan, we’ve just got to try and execute it as best as possible because it is a different beast and the Waratahs are playing well this year and, over there, they’re quite hard, so it should be exciting.”

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