Bar­rett still in his in­fancy at No 10: Hansen

Taranaki Daily News - - Sport - Richard Knowler

Beau­den Bar­rett is still cut­ting his baby teeth as an in­ter­na­tional No 10.

He may be World Rugby’s player of the year for the last two sea­sons run­ning, and short-listed for the award again this year, yet All Blacks coach Steve Hansen be­lieves Bar­rett is still un­rav­el­ling the se­crets on what it takes to be a five-star in­ter­na­tional first five-eighth.

Given he has col­lected 70 test caps since 2012, and been a reg­u­lar starter at No 10 since be­ing pre­ferred ahead of Aaron Cru­den in 2016, Bar­rett would ap­pear to most peo­ple to be near the peak of his game. Hansen, who has named Damian McKen­zie at full­back to as­sist Bar­rett in the play­maker’s role for the test against Eng­land, isn’t sub­scrib­ing to that view.

Speak­ing ahead of the match at Twick­en­ham, Hansen re­flected on Bar­rett’s slow pro­gres­sion to­wards be­ing the All Blacks’ top-ranked No 10 and said he’s still learn­ing the finer points of the com­pli­cated job.

‘‘When he first came on to the scene, he was that sec­ond driver,’’ Hansen said. ‘‘He would come on and play at full­back. Him and Dan

[Carter] op­er­ated pretty well to­gether.

‘‘I re­mem­ber a game in Wales where he did it and turned the game around. At the Hur­ri­canes, they don’t have the same lux­ury of hav­ing two driv­ers and I would say he has found at times he has been a bit frus­trated there.

‘‘So it’s a learn­ing curve for him as a player. And he is still in his in­fancy as a five-eighth, we tend to for­get he hasn’t re­ally been there for a long time. Four years isn’t a long time.’’

Bar­rett has been pre­pared to play the long game. His pro­gres­sion has in­volved be­ing used off the bench as a full­back, and slowly be­ing ex­posed to the job at first-five un­til land­ing the role full­time af­ter the 2015 World Cup.

The All Blacks se­lec­tors have picked Bar­rett and McKen­zie to cause Eng­land prob­lems in terms of giv­ing their team two op­tions when it comes to run­ning the back­line.

If all goes to plan, this means there will be lit­tle chance of Bar­rett hav­ing to shoul­der all the de­ci­sion-mak­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. It also means that if Eng­land bury Bar­rett in a ruck, McKen­zie can slot into first re­ceiver to call the shots.

By nam­ing Richie Mo’unga on the bench, the All Blacks have an­other first-five ca­pa­ble of adding fresh legs and pro­vid­ing an in­sight into how to run the cut­ter in the sec­ond half.

‘‘He’s [Bar­rett] learn­ing,’’ Hansen stated. ‘‘It’s the same for Richie too, they both want to play footy. And Damian is the same, they both love run­ning the ball as op­posed to us­ing their kick­ing op­tions. If you have only got one kicker, then it is easy to shut down those kick­ing op­tions too.

‘‘From a team point of view it is be­com­ing eas­ier to do what we want to do, and there­fore from an in­di­vid­ual point of view it be­comes less frus­trat­ing.’’

Steve Hansen

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