Why Jordie Barrett must be used as a wing by the All Blacks
Former All Blacks great Sir John Kirwan and ex-Black Ferns midfielder Hannah Porter have called on the All Blacks to reinstate Jordie Barrett on the wing in their upcoming tests against Tonga and Fiji.
As is normally the case leading into the first test of the year, plenty of anticipation surrounds head coach Ian Foster’s selection philosophy with plenty of new faces impressing in Super Rugby.
Others are eager to see which combinations will be formed or maintained this season, but Kirwan and Porter want to see one of last year’s more controversial selection decisions remain in place over the coming three weeks.
In a bid to ensure all of his best players were on the field at any one time, Foster opted to use Barrett, a utility back who specialises at fullback, on the right wing in most of last year’s tests.
The selection of the younger Barrett brother on the wing rather than at fullback, where he thrived at Super Rugby level for the Hurricanes, sparked plenty of debate as some questioned how effective picking players out of position was for the All Blacks.
What followed was a tumultuous year that saw the All Blacks reclaim the Tri-Nations and Bledisloe Cup, but only with a 50 percent winning record after they suffered back-to-back defeats to the Wallabies and Los Pumas.
That under-par campaign intensified criticism not only of Mo’unga’s and Beauden Barrett’s dual-playmaking partnership, but also the use of Jordie Barrett on the wing instead of fullback.
With Beauden Barrett publicly expressing his desire to play at first-five for the All Blacks, which Foster has seemingly supported in recent weeks, the door appears to have opened for his younger brother to stake his claim for the No. 15 jersey.
However, Kirwan and Porter both said they want to see Jordie Barrett back on the wing for the tests against Tonga and Fiji.
Porter, a two-time Women’s World Cup winner, rejected the notion put forward by All Blacks defence coach Scott McLeod that injuries to New Zealand’s midfielders have made Barrett an emergency option to fill that positional void over the coming weeks.
A pair of former All Blacks greats, as well as an ex-Black Fern, have revealed who they believe should start for New Zealand in their first test this weekend. #AllBlacks #NZLvTGA https://t.co/pkjvMjtyUC
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With Anton Lienert-Brown, Jack Goodhue and Braydon Ennor all sidelined for various periods, as well as Ngani Laumape’s defection to France, McLeod suggested Barrett, who has played in every backline position bar halfback, could move into the midfield if needed.
“There’s a number of options that can be played in the midfield,” McLeod said. “He [Barrett] played a lot of his junior rugby there, U20s. He’s talked about being an option there as well. If we get thin, that’s something we could look at.”
Porter stressed the importance of the All Blacks keeping Barrett on the wing, though, as she said New Zealand’s thin midfield stocks will require Rieko Ioane to stay in the midfield for the foreseeable future.
She said that, with Ioane in the midfield and Caleb Clarke set for the Olympics, the All Blacks will be without a power wing, meaning Barrett, who stands at 1.96m and 96kg, must be retained on the wing.
“I probably don’t see Jordie in the midfield. Without Rieko on the wing, we need a big, powerful winger, and I’d like to see him out on the wing filling that role,” Porter told The Breakdown earlier this week.
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“He’s a little bit taller than the rest of the wingers we’ve got, he’s good in the air, he’s got a good skill set, he can come and take long-range penalties. I’d probably see him used in that role more than in the midfield in these test matches.”
Kirwan echoed Porter’s sentiments as he said that while Barrett is New Zealand’s “in-form fullback”, Foster’s lack of option in the midfield will require Barrett to go “straight to the wing”.
Kirwan added he believes that Damian McKenzie will start at fullback with Beauden Barrett to come off the bench, but made note of how important Jordie Barrett’s long-range goal-kicking ability will be in more competitive tests in the future.
“I don’t think this is going to come down to a three-point victory where you need to kick a 55-metre goal kick at the end of the game, like could happen in the World Cup semi-final, quarter-final,” Kirwan told The Breakdown.
“So, I still think his kicking game, his ability to kick long goals, is really, really important at the tight next level, but with losing the centres, I think he goes straight onto the wing.”
Foster will name his team to play Tonga on Thursday, with kick-off for that match scheduled for 7:05pm Saturday NZT.
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