Beauden's kid brother has been outstanding for Hurricanes in his debut Super Rugby season and must come into Steve Hansen's All Black reckoning, says Francisco Isaac
Look out, there’s a new Barrett in town.
New Zealand, land of beautiful mountains, high clouds and the amazing All Blacks, has seen in the past couple of years a brilliant new player in Beauden Barrett. Well, it seems the Barrett family isn’t tired of producing new stars as Crusaders lock Scott, 23, has also played for the ABs (in the autumn Tests) and Jordie, 20, is mounting a challenge for the New Zealand full-back position.
A star of last year’s Junior World Cup in Manchester, Jordie Barrett was excluded from this year’s U20 New Zealand squad because he is already moving in more elevated company. In the past year he has left the Canterbury team (after winning the Mitre 10 Cup), signed for Taranaki (alongside Beauden) and quickly become a mainstay of the Hurricanes franchise.
Tall for a back, at 6ft 5in, Jordie has already run more than 500 metres in his Super Rugby season debut, while scoring four tries and assisting several more. Rugby World wrote previously about his quick-witted try against the Stormers, when he stripped the ball from a startled Nizaam Carr before the South African No 8 could touch it down for a drop-out.
More impressive still is Barrett’s clean breaks and beaten defenders’ numbers (ten and 20) which highlight what a threat he is on the advantage line. He can kick goals too, achieving a 75% success rate when taking over the responsibility from Beauden.
But when we talk about his time on the field, what does Jordie offer? For a start, the youngest of the five Barrett brothers has a unique understanding with Beauden. Quick, agile and with an adept kicking game borne of experience in the ten and 12 shirts, Jordie can shift the speed of the game with his footwork and attacking vision. He often steps in at first or second receiver.
In a way he is the same type of player as fellow Hurricane Nehe Milner-Skudder – injured since Super Rugby’s third round – or Israel Dagg, in that he has the ability to create magic in a small space.
The Hurricanes play a style of rugby that helps Jordie show his best side, as they like to utilize clever cross-kicks and up-and-unders for the back trio to catch and turn into a dangerous attacking situation. Jordie’s kicking skill delivers deepness to the Wellington side, making life very hard for their foes in the competition.
The connection between the fly-half and full-back helps make the Hurricanes the deadliest attacking outfit in Super Rugby, with 63 tries scored. The only side close to that at the completion of round 11 was Crusaders, who last week beat the Canes in a match that saw a more unusual string to Jordie’s bow – they threw to him at a fully set attacking lineout!
The youngster likes to appear between the centres or behind one of the wingers, giving an advantage when his team is working in a confined space.
He’s an elusive player who’s almost unreadable, much like Beauden. Will he attack the line? Will he do a small spin or a decoy entry? Or will he opt for a kick and chase? The options are almost limitless and that’s something that should earn him a part in the upcoming series with the Lions.
Even at such a tender age, Jordie has a strategic mind inside the field, communicating well with his wings (Julian Savea and Cory Jane, both All Blacks), helping Vince Aso find a gap or changing places with Beauden to run a different kind of play.
Against the Blues, he displayed marvellous dexterity to prevent an opposition touch-finder from going out deep inside the Canes’ 22. In such details you can see the greatness that lies inside Jordie Barrett – watch the video here.
Where he still lacks some discipline or quality is in the tackle department. He has missed a lot of tackles, showing he is still a little green when faced by a rampaging wing or defending from a scrum in his own 22.
For his age he handles the pressure well in most games, but sometimes he can crack. For example, against the Chiefs, Jordie was easily contained by the aggressive defensive qualities of Sam Cane and Anton Lienert-Brown.
Lienert-Brown, set to take the No 13 All Black shirt against the Lions, not only closed any gaps between him and Tim Nanai-Williams or Toni Pulu but pressured sufficiently to smother any creativity from Barrett’s hands or feet.
Canes coach Chris Boyd has identified the need to manage Jordie’s game time. After seven successive starts, the player is on the bench for this weekend’s clash with the Cheetahs, with Beauden switching from No 10 to the full-back berth.
Jordie won’t feature in the starting All Black XV, as Ben Smith will be back in time for the first training camp and Dagg is almost ready to fire up again for the Crusaders following a knee injury.
And don’t forget Damian McKenzie, who can almost single-handedly win games for the Chiefs. The full-back famed for his cat-flap offloads is at the top of his form and one of the best players in the southern hemisphere. He has run almost a kilometre, creating countless try-scoring opportunities for his team.
He and Barrett are both young but both could bring even more X-factor to Steve Hansen’s team.
The World Cup is little more than two years away so it’s time to start giving opportunities to players like Barrett, McKenzie, Ngani Laumape and the Ioane brothers, Akira and Rieko.
So will Jordie Barrett get the call or is Steve Hansen more inclined to let him run some more games for the Hurricanes and maybe start for New Zealand Maori? Only time will tell but expect something special to happen.