Beauden Barrett wants to play but he's not allowed.
"I tried. I'm keen as, but I've been told I'm not allowed to play," Barrett said yesterday of Taranaki's NPC game against Auckland at Eden Park tomorrow night.
The 21-year-old first five-eighth, who has been part of the All Blacks squad because of a calf injury to Dan Carter, has been put on ice by Steve Hansen and Co as they keep their options open ahead of Rugby Championship games in Argentina and South Africa.
With the All Blacks not playing again until the match in La Plata on September 30, it was widely believed Barrett would be available for Taranaki tomorrow night, even if only for some game time considering he never got off the bench for the All Blacks against South Africa in Dunedin on Saturday and only had a four-minute cameo off the bench against Argentina the week before.
However, he has not been released.
"Steve Hansen [All Blacks coach] has told me to stay fresh because there's a good chance I'll be going to Argentina. I'll find out tomorrow or Wednesday."
Taranaki are learning to live without Barrett, and coach Colin Cooper yesterday made seven changes to his side for the Auckland match.
A revamped lineup was expected, with the amber and blacks backing up just four days after their 18-9 Ranfurly Shield win over Canterbury.
In to the pack come prop Willie Ioane, lock Jason Eaton and flanker Chris Walker, with Michael Bent, James Broadhurst and Scott Waldrom on the bench. Broadhurst was cleared to play after the citing commissioner decided he had no case to answer after Canterbury had cited the lock for allegedly using a knee against an opponent.
In the backs, halfback Brett Goodin and first five-eighth Jack Cameron pair up, while big centre Seta Tamanivula earns his first start after one other appearance off the bench against Hawke's Bay. The other change is on the wing, with Jackson Ormond starting ahead of Frazier Climo.
Goodin replaces Chris Smylie, with Cameron in for James Marshall and Tamanivula for Willie Rickards.
Assistant Tenderlink Taranaki coach Leo Crowley said it was a matter of being smart as coaches.
"We don't think we're weakening the side at all. We're lucky with the depth we have and we can give players a bit of a break," he said.
"Brett and Jack are the best of mates and they've played a lot of rugby together. They've been coming on and finishing games for us."
Cooper said Marshall had passed all the concussion tests after a first-half knock on Saturday.
"We're managing him. He's fine, and may play on Saturday," Cooper said. "And Chris hasn't had that much rugby after coming back from injury."
Meanwhile, Barrett said he enjoyed being among some of his Canterbury All Blacks team-mates while watching Taranaki's Ranfurly Shield win on Saturday.
"I watched the first half with Wyatt Crockett, Luke Romano, Sam Whitelock, Dan Carter and Richie McCaw. They were pretty confident," he said.
"I didn't say too much, but was quietly confident. I had to go and watch the second half in my own room ... I was too excited."
Barrett said it was a huge buzz seeing Taranaki defend the Shield.
"The guys are going really well. If we can get excited about the next two games [Auckland tomorrow night and Northland on Saturday], we'll be all right. We've got plenty of fresh legs who are more than capable."
As for his All Blacks experience, Barrett said it was exciting to be in the squad. "I just have to be patient and grab any chance I get," he said.
"I'm learning as much as I can, just soaking it up."
Barrett said the atmosphere at the ground in Dunedin on Saturday night was incredible.
"You're a lot closer to the field. I was quite nervous on the bench, you never know when you're going to get the call. I just tried to stay relaxed."
But Barrett never got the call, with Aaron Cruden playing the full 80 minutes.
TARANAKI: Kurt Baker, Waisake Naholo, Seta Tamanivula, Jayden Hayward, Jackson Ormond, Jack Cameron, Brett Goodin, Blade Thomson, Chris Walker, Jarrad Hoeata, Jason Eaton, Craig Clarke (captain), Willie Ioane, Timo Tutavaha, Chris King. Reserves, Sione Lea, Michael Bent, James Broadhurst, Scott Waldrom, Jamison Gibson-Park, Isaia Tuifua, Frazier Climo.
- © Fairfax NZ News