Jordie aiming for bulk of attention
His older brother hogs headlines but last year’s wonderkid Jordie Barrett could garner just as much attention this season.
Already taller and broader than Beauden, Jordie has bulked up to put on 6kg as he continues his recovery from shoulder surgery.
The 20-year-old has been spotted frequently munching away in changing rooms before and after training in an effort to increase his frame.
It is common for the All Blacks, through programmes devised by strength and conditioning trainer Nic Gill, to add size to younger athletes.
In Barrett’s case, 6kg could have a huge impact, allowing him to take contact better and potentially surge through tackles as well as possibly adding extra length to his already booming boot.
Barrett is superb in the air, fast and dynamic with ball in hand and a quality goal kicker too. Now, with extra bulk, his comeback just got that bit more intriguing.
“Injuries always have a downside and an upside. The upside for him is that he’s had a really good opportunity to put some conditioning on,” Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd confirmed at the Brisbane Global Tens.
“He has come back and he’s looking pretty frisky. I don’t think he’s lost any speed with the size, so that bodes well for him.”
Previously listed at 96kg, Barrett has now cracked the century mark.
“Shall we say something like 115kg, that might get punters thinking,” Boyd joked. “At 115kg and six foot five, that would rival Don Clarke, wouldn’t it?”
Barrett will not travel to South Africa or Argentina but is on track to return in either the Hurricanes’ third (Crusaders) or fourth
Super Rugby match (Highlanders) which are split by the bye.
He is expected to again slot in at fullback for the Hurricanes in a competitive back three eventually comprising Nehe Milner-Skudder, Julian Savea or Wes Goosen. Long-term, the added weight opens the prospect of Barrett featuring at second five-eighth, the position he starred in throughout the junior ranks.
What a luxury it will be for the All Blacks to carry someone genuinely comfortable performing anywhere from midfield to fullback.
“Jordie is still picking his way through where he might end up positionally,” said Boyd. “He’s a good team man and wherever the team needs him, he’ll be happy to play. He is one of those guys that at a pinch he could probably play any position other than halfback.
“If you had to toss him in at 10, he’d probably do a good job. He could certainly play 12 and 13 and he’s quick enough to play on the wing. He’s one of those multi-talented guys.
“He’ll play at fullback for us when he comes back, and when Nehe Milner-Skudder returns, we’ll work out who is going where.”
All injuries are cruel but the timing of Barrett’s last year was particularly so, given Ben Smith’s sabbatical. After his impressive debut alongside fellow Hurricanes rookie Ngani Laumape in the third British and Irish Lions test, Barrett was set to challenge Damian McKenzie for the All Blacks fullback role, only to be robbed of the chance and sidelined.
With McKenzie switching his focus to first-five with the Chiefs this season, Barrett will be expected to deputise and push All Blacks vicecaptain Smith.
“It’s a bit of a Barrett trait; he’s pretty horizontal, he doesn’t get too fazed by much. He’s not intimidated by the big stage at all; in fact, he relishes it.”
Boyd indicated Milner-Skudder would return from his shoulder surgery in May, while Coles’ recovery from his ACL rupture will stretch into June.