Beauden Barrett narrowly misses out on top spot in our list of the Top 100 Players In The World
The 100 Best Rugby Players In The World: 2 Beauden Barrett
Country New Zealand Date of Birth 27.5.91 Position Fly-half
Beauden Barrett makes a compelling case for inclusion in the lofty echelons of our Top 100. Having just been crowned World Player of the Year for the second time, he is admired for his rapier speed, precision kick-passes and audacious flicks, feints and offloads on the gain-line.
He earned his All Blacks spurs, spending four years playing at full-back, wing, fly-half and even centre. Yet it was only after the last World Cup that he stepped out of Dan Carter’s shadow, scoring nine tries in 13 Tests in 2016.
Compared to his stellar breakthrough year, 2017 was deemed to have been a more modest season, by his exalted standards. His place-kicking is seen as a flaw and yet last year he still landed 45 Test conversions and scored 168 points.
His one-handed pick-up in the first Lions Test drew gasps, as did his reverse offload to Nehe Milner-Skudder against the Springboks. There was also the lofted kick-pass to brother Jordie to swat down to Ngani Laumape in the third Test against the Lions. All examples of a player operating at his peak.
His importance as a match-winner was summed up against Scotland. If streaking away under the posts for a try didn’t quite quell a spirited renaissance by the hosts, a fleet-footed cover tackle on Stuart Hogg in the dying embers saved the All Blacks from a first-ever loss to the Scots. With a 92% win rate, he isn’t used to losing in a black shirt.
His point of difference is his pace and exploitation of space in broken play; he’s crossed the whitewash 24 times, even though he has started only 32 of his 62 Tests. He credits his fast-twitch fibres to his mother Robyn, who was a decent athlete and netball player.
Ex-All Blacks fly-half Nick Evans has watched Barrett’s progress with interest and highlights his rugby intelligence. He says: “When the game opens up, he has that priceless ability to manipulate defenders. If you watch him, he loiters in the backfield waiting for those unstructured attacks.
“He’s smart too. He will kick the ball back but once there’s a poor kick return, he’ll use his speed to ghost in and out of the line.”
Barrett has more of an understated confidence than any hint of arrogance. Press him about his standing within the game and he is modest, saying: “It’s a privilege to be talked about as one of the world’s best players, but personally I don’t really want to be put on a pedestal because ultimately it’s a team sport. I’m only as good as the ball the forwards give me and the service I get from my scrummie. Then it’s down to the options I’m getting from the backs outside me.”
As for career ambitions, Barrett admits an obsession to be the best will lead to him scrutinising his own game. “When you sit back and set yourself goals, you want to be the best player you can be in your position and, quite often, what stems from that is being coveted as the best in the world. I would say there’s always room for improvement. I’m never satisfied with what I’ve done.”
With a few months to rest up now, Barrett will eschew the high life and retire to the family farm a 30-minute drive from New Plymouth, spending time honing his golf swing, taking his Schnauzer Monty for walks and fishing for whitebait with his four brothers.
Will he go on to usurp Carter as the greatest All Blacks No 10? Only time will tell, but the fun will be in the watching…