Barrett’s unexpected wing selection surprises Rennie
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.