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'They've had five different 12s in five games': Verdict on Jordie Barrett's position switch

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

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All Blacks star Jordie Barrett has received a mixed verdict from current and former Kiwi internationals following his first outing at second-five in three years on Sunday.

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Barrett was named at No 12 for the Hurricanes in their 30-29 Super Rugby Pacific defeat to the Chiefs in Wellington on Sunday, the first time he had played there for the franchise since 2019.

Much had been made about his positional switch in the lead-up to the match, with many viewing his move from fullback to the midfield as a sign of things to come over the coming years.

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However, while he showed glimpses of promise with several ball carries and some punishing tackles to keep the Chiefs behind the gain line, Barrett struggled to find great chemistry in the Hurricanes’ backline.

As such, former All Blacks fullback Mils Muliaina told The Breakdown on Sky Sport that Barrett “wasn’t quite at his best” in his latest performance, but suggested that was to be expected given the difficulties that come with changing positions.

“We all know he started there [at second-five] when he played for Canterbury,” Muliaina, who has firsthand experience in being moved to the midfield during his All Blacks career, said.

“A few years ago, I thought that would be his position. Obviously the opening with the All Blacks was at fullback and he took that on.

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“He wasn’t quite his best today, but it just goes to show how difficult the positions are, or how different they are. Playing at the back, you’ve got so much time. At the back, you give a bit more voice and direction.

“The thing is going forward, what does he do now? He’s saying he wants to play second-five, does he stay there?”

Former All Blacks and Chiefs No 8 Steven Bates agreed with Muliana’s summary, adding that Barrett can’t be blamed for failing to fire as well as he’d have liked.

Bates also told The Breakdown that the Hurricanes need to make a permanent decision about where Barrett should play as alternating between fullback and the midfield could prove challenging for the 25-year-old.

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“I reckon today probably didn’t go his way. Sometimes games go like that. I don’t think he was fantastic or set the world on fire, and that’s not necessarily his fault,” Bates said.

“The hard thing is to say, ‘He didn’t have the influence today, so let’s just move him back to fullback’. If the Hurricanes buy in and the All Blacks buy in and want to play him as a second-five, give him time there.

“We know he is a fantastic rugby player, he can play where ever he wants, just needs to be given a bit of time there. Chopping and changing, it’s pretty difficult.”

Black Ferns star Cheslea Semple, a second-five herself, echoed Bates’ comments that Barrett needs time in the midfield if he is to nail it down.

Semple said that expecting the 36-test All Black to be at his best straight away was always going to be a tall ask before highlighting the inconsistency of the Hurricanes’ selections at second-five this season.

“It’s time in the saddle for me,” Semple told The Breakdown.

“At Super Rugby level, when the games are this high quality, you can’t expect a player to switch into a new position he hasn’t played in that team before and perform at his best and be miraculous in one game.

“I think if the Hurricanes want to make this work, they’ve had five different 12s in five games, they haven’t had much consistency there.

“If Jordie is coming out saying he wants to be a 12, he’s just got to have time in the saddle and back up game after game playing there.”

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