Weekend Herald

Bar­rett’s un­ex­pected wing se­lec­tion sur­prises Ren­nie

- Lach­lan Waugh

The All Blacks will field a fairly fa­mil­iar team for to­mor­row’s open­ing Bledis­loe Cup test, but within it dwells some chunks of con­tro­versy.

So much so, Wal­la­bies coach Dave Ren­nie was caught off guard by one call his op­po­site made.

For his first test at the helm of the All Blacks, Ian Foster picked a back­line that con­tin­ued the Richie Mo’unga and Beau­den Bar­rett du­alplay­maker ex­per­i­ment used through­out 2019.

Rieko Ioane will part­ner Jack Good­hue in the mid­field, while Ge­orge Bridge and Aaron Smith hold on to their po­si­tions on the left wing and at half­back.

The right edge, how­ever, will fea­ture Jordie Bar­rett, usu­ally a full­back, which prompted Ren­nie to raise his eye­brows.

“I think the only guy I didn’t have in there was Jordie Bar­rett on the wing,” he says.

“I thought An­ton Lienert- Brown would be at 12, maybe move Good­hue out and have Rieko on the wing. But Jordie has been in such great form, I guess they need to find a place for him.”

Bar­rett’s started three games on the wing for the All Blacks, and has scored five tries, in­clud­ing four against Italy in Rome at the end of 2018. But his last ap­pear­ance in the po­si­tion came off the bench in the World Cup semi­fi­nal loss to Eng­land that ended New Zealand hopes of a third suc­ces­sive ti­tle last year.

In his two ap­pear­ances against the Wal­la­bies, Bar­rett has come off the bench to cover full­back and first- five.

Bar­rett’s se­lec­tion also — par­tially — forces some key names out of the match­day 23. With TJ Per­e­nara, Lienert- Brown and debu­tant Caleb Clarke fill­ing the No 21 through 23 jer­seys, Damian McKen­zie, Sevu Reece and Will Jor­dan miss out.

Re­gard­less, Ren­nie sees quality across the park.

“It’s a hell of a side,” he says. “There’s not a lot of weak­nesses there. We’re go­ing to have to de­fend re­ally well, and for long pas­sages. We need to be re­ally ag­gres­sive to try and force them to kick, or to try and turn over some pill.”

Bar­rett’s in­clu­sion will add a third play­mak­ing op­tion along­side his older brother and Mo’unga. It also means there i s no cover for first re­ceiver off the bench.

Ren­nie an­tic­i­pates the Wal­la­bies’ de­fence will be worked hard against a po­tent at­tack.

“We’ve got a plan . . . we’re well aware of the power and the game the All Blacks will play.

“We’ve put a lot of em­pha­sis around de­fence, we know that’s go­ing to be re­ally im­por­tant. The teams that have beaten the All Blacks in the past have lim­ited them to less than 15- 16 points, so that’s our chal­lenge.”

Mean­while, the Wal­la­bies have elected for an ex­tra play­maker to fa­cil­i­tate at­tack, with James O’Con­nor start­ing at first- five and Matt To’omua named at sec­ond- five.

The run- on squad fea­tures just two play­ers who started Aus­tralia’s most re­cent match — a 40- 16 hum­bling against Eng­land in their World Cup quar­ter- fi­nal. Loose for­ward and cap­tain Michael Hooper and dy­namic winger Marika Koroi­bete are the only survivors from that XV as Ren­nie mixes youth and ex­pe­ri­ence.

Ren­nie has avoided the temp­ta­tion to kick off his ten­ure with all- out youth­ful ex­u­ber­ance, opt­ing to start ex­pe­ri­enced duo Nic White and O’Con­nor at half­back and first- five, ahead of ex­cit­ing young stars Tate McDer­mott and Noah Lole­sio, though the lat­ter could get his de­but off the bench.

Three play­ers in the start­ing side will make their test de­buts: Harry Wil­son, Filipo Dau­gunu and Hunter Paisami, the lat­ter re­ceiv­ing his op­por­tu­nity at the ex­pense of star mid­fielder Jor­dan Pe­taia, who wasn’t fit for se­lec­tion.

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