He’s big­ger and faster, but where do you use Jordie?

Waikato Times - - Sport - PAUL CULLY Blacks ques­tion is to put him ‘‘some­where’’ in the 23. Ex­cept it’s not that sim­ple. If the All Blacks con­tinue with the model they have been wed­ded to, they pick mid­field cover on the

OPIN­ION: If the es­tab­lished All Blacks didn’t know it al­ready they know it now – a group of younger play­ers want their jobs.

Some of them had al­ready put down mark­ers on the end-of­sea­son tour last year – Ngani Laumape and Jack Good­hue in par­tic­u­lar against a French side in Lyon – and now Akira Ioane is start­ing to string to­gether a series of im­pres­sive games.

Add an­other name to add to the mix: Jordie Bar­rett. The Hur­ri­canes’ at­tack­ing threat against the Cru­saders rose and fell de­pend­ing on how many times Jordie got his hands on the ball.

He’s big­ger and pos­si­bly faster than Jordie 2017 – and he al­ready had all the skills and a tem­per­a­ment to match. It begs the ques­tion: what on earth are the All Blacks go­ing to do with him?

I know what Jeff Wil­son would do: just give him the ball. In com­men­tary on Sat­ur­day you could hear the frus­tra­tion in the for­mer All Black’s voice as the Hur­ri­canes had a mid­field scrum with Jordie on the left and Beau­den Bar­rett on the right.

They opted to go right but the older Bar­rett slammed an un­sym­pa­thetic pass into Laumape’s shoul­der. Why not use Jordie where the space was, Wil­son lamented? And he was right.

The easy an­swer to the All bench, as well as No 9 and No 10. So, the­o­ret­i­cally: TJ Per­e­nara, Richie Mo’unga/Damian McKen­zie and An­ton LienertBrown/Good­hue/Laumape.

That bench ex­cites. But are we com­fort­able rolling out an All Blacks 23 with­out Jordie Bar­rett? The op­po­si­tion would be.

One so­lu­tion would be to get a lit­tle cre­ative.

Rieko Ioane’s move to the mid­field could mean the pos­si­bil­ity of us­ing him as mid­field cover, open­ing up a bench spot for the younger Bar­rett.

But the logic of rou­tinely mov­ing the world’s best wing into the mid­field to create that spot on the bench seems flawed.

Where is the merit in mov­ing Ioane from the po­si­tion where he was so dev­as­tat­ing in 2017? That would need an­swer­ing, even be­fore con­sid­er­ing the huge de­mands it would put on the 20-year-old.

There is a third way – al­though this will be deemed heresy in Dunedin. Start Jordie and move Ben Smith to No 14.

You do so be­cause Smith is still the best right wing in the coun­try. You do so be­cause you still har­bour doubts about Waisake Na­holo’s hands, Nehe Mil­nerSkud­der’s shoul­ders and Is­rael Dagg’s knee.

And when the crit­ics raise their voices about how that would di­min­ish Smith’s in­flu­ence on a game, you point them to the 2015 World Cup fi­nal when Mil­nerSkud­der was more in­flu­en­tial from the right wing than Smith was from full­back, be­cause of the way the All Blacks used him at first re­ceiver. We have to get past the idea that wings must nec­es­sar­ily play a pe­riph­eral role.

You also do so be­cause it al­lows the All Blacks to con­tinue to re­serve a bench spot for a mid­fielder.

Above all, you do so be­cause you see in Jordie a range of skills, a com­po­sure and a physique that can be an ex­tra­or­di­nary as­set when you get to the World Cup. If you write down the 15 best foot­ballers in this coun­try, the young­ster is al­ready among them – where could he be by 2019?


Jordie Bar­rett tries to evade Cru­saders cen­tre Jack Good­hue last Sat­ur­day.

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