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