Barrett shines at fullback, may get start in Rome
TOBY ROBSON IN EDINBURGH
Growing a convincing tour moustache is proving the only difficult thing about being an All Black for Beauden Barrett.
As has been the case throughout his rugby career, the 21-year-old took another challenge in his casual stride when he was tossed the fullback's duties after 24 minutes at Murrayfield yesterday.
Until Israel Dagg came crashing to the Murrayfield turf yesterday, Barrett's most likely course was a late cameo at first five-eighth.
Now he's facing a potential starting role in the No 15 jersey against Italy in Rome this weekend.
Barrett had trained only briefly at fullback in the long buildup to the tour opener.
However, though not flawless, he looked as comfortable, confident and casual as ever during his 56 minutes against the Scots.
It is the second time during his three-test career he has been thrown in the deep on the 24-minute mark, a repeat of his prolonged June debut at first five-eighth against Ireland in Hamilton.
Dagg's injury - he had sore buttocks after leaping for a highball then landing awkwardly - may not prove serious.
He was reportedly walking freely after the test, but it's doubtful the incumbent will be risked against Italy.
Ben Smith and Tamati Ellison are options at fullback, but, presuming Aaron Cruden wears No 10, Barrett could be a more tempting option.
His ability as a second option at first receiver stood out against the Scots and though he pushed one punt too far, he impressed his backs coach Ian Foster.
Barrett's biggest asset may be his temperament.
He seemed nonplussed by the 67,000 strong crowd, saying he'd played on Murrayfield before, for the New Zealand sevens team.
And in typical Barrett fashion he was not stressing about his rugby, relaxed enough to joke his biggest concern was finding some dye to darken up his facial growth.
On a more serious note he said he had learned a lot from the Murrayfield test.
"I've still got a lot to learn back there," Barrett said.
"The positional understanding of when to come down the blind and when to hold, stuff like that, but I'll take a lot from that game when I look at the videos. I'll learn heaps from that.
"I'm pretty easy [about where I play], I'll take whatever I can get, but it was good to have a bit of time and have a good look at my game."
Ironically, he'd learned more about playing pivot than ever after getting a unique view of Dan Carter's masterclass performance.
"It's a great place to learn out there at fullback, watching how he runs the ship," Barrett said.
"He made a lot of line breaks and I could really see how he picked the right times to run."
And the admiration was mutual with Carter impressed by his young team-mate's efforts.
"He did extremely well," Carter said.
"He's not all that experienced and the fullback role is different. "For him to play the majority of the game like that, I thought he didn't look out of position at all."
Nor did the new-look midfield of Ellison and Smith.
They were a mixed bag, lacked some physicality and played too much in their own quarter, but were always threatening with ball in hand.
- Fairfax Media
Which three first-fives would you have taken on the All Blacks' northern tour?