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What Beauden Barrett's new deal means for Will Jordan and Damian McKenzie

By Ben Smith
Beauden Barrett and Will Jordan of New Zealand celebrate after teammate Aaron Smith (not pictured) scores a try that is later disallowed during the Rugby World Cup Final match between New Zealand and South Africa at Stade de France on October 28, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Re-signing Beauden Barrett will be well worth it for New Zealand Rugby and the All Blacks as they look to fill the void left by Richie Mo’unga.

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Once thought to be finished with his international career, Barrett’s new deal until the end of 2027 will see him aim for his fourth Rugby World Cup where he will be 36 years old.

The big question will be whether he is still seen as a fullback or as a No 10 by incoming head coach Scott Robertson.

Despite the physical demands of playing at the back, it stands to reason that Barrett will still be able to play at a high level as a No 15 for at least two more seasons.

Former All Black fullback Ben Smith produced one of his greatest seasons in black at age 33 before being left out of the first-choice side at 34 in 2019.

Granted, he was being used as a right winger then. In his final game against Wales in the bronze final, Smith showed what he could still do with a two try performance.

Barrett is 32 and could still be the All Blacks first-choice fullback until the end of 2025.

There will be many calling for Will Jordan to take over with the 25-year-old entering his prime as an athlete.

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Whilst Jordan is one of the best attacking players on the planet, where he cannot yet match Barrett is in the kicking department.

Many were extremely critical of the volume of kicking Barrett undertook in big games at the Rugby World Cup without recognising the context.

His kicking was a necessity in most cases to relieve pressure from the backfield, returning serve from a position where most of his teammates were offside.

Barrett’s management of messy situations in the backfield is world class, whether with cover tackles or kick coverage. Few can offer better.

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Jordan has a higher kick error rate on the low volume he is required to make as a winger. It’s accuracy in this part of the game that needs to improve.

While Barrett is available, he should still be starting over Jordan for this reason. Until Barrett’s performances decline significantly, it’s not the time to hand over the 15 jersey.

The Crusaders’ flyer is still a guaranteed starter on the right wing and there are many ways to utilise Jordan’s attacking skillset and dangerous running game there.

With Mo’unga departing, there might be temptation to move Barrett back into the No 10 jersey to offer experience to the role.

However, with Barrett comfortably established at the back since his shift there in 2019 it’s time to give Damian McKenzie the role.

McKenzie is a better ball player than Barrett and at 28-years-old has plenty of experience himself since his Test debut in 2016.

During Barrett’s prime years at No 10 they formed a 10-15 combination that was meant to be the foundation of the attack for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Injury to McKenzie foiled that plan and opened the door for Mo’unga, but now they have a chance to rebuild that partnership with the roles reversed.

In Mendoza this year against Argentina we saw McKenzie fire at first five-eighth with three try assists and Barrett had an equally productive day at fullback with a try and try assist himself.

Dan Carter was 33 when he produced his all-time great run to help the All Blacks to the 2015 Rugby World Cup, and while Barrett will have a few extra miles on the body, there is no reason why he can’t help do the same in 2027.

Carter battled through longer-term injuries throughout his New Zealand career that Barrett has not, which will prove telling over this final chapter.

The two-time World Rugby Player of the Year is past his prime when it comes to his blistering speed, but that doesn’t mean his value has diminished.

This deal is a big boost for the All Blacks ahead of the next chapter under Scott Robertson.

 

 

 

 

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