Jordie Barrett ready for step up to provincial rugby with Canterbury
Jordie Barrett is poised to follow the career path of his brothers Beauden and Scott and make his national provincial championship debut this weekend, the next step towards joining his siblings in Super Rugby next year.
The 19-year-old is expected to be named in reigning champion Canterbury's squad for the start of their title defence against 2015 runners-up Auckland in Christchurch on Saturday night, either at fullback or on the bench.
Barrett is more familiar with second five-eighth - the position he filled for New Zealand at this year's under-20s World Cup in England - though coach Scott Robertson has indicated he will be initially developed as a fullback who can cover midfield.
Robertson has had a long association with Barrett at under-20s level, a relationship that extends to Canterbury and then, presumably, the Crusaders now the former All Black loose forward has succeeded Todd Blackadder.
"He can play, we're just trying to limit the expectation on him," said Robertson, before replying in the affirmative when asked if Super Rugby was feasible for Barrett in 2017.
"Capability-wise a lot of those guys coming out of the under-20s programme play NOC in their first year and normally go straight on."
Robertson said the priority for Barrett was to work on his game awareness and flesh out his frame.
"He's six foot five [1.95m], 96 kilos and he's 19so his body is one thing her has to build up a little bit. We just have to manage him and make sure we develop him without just saying 'off you go son'.
"We've got a really good plan around it. The way he works, and the talent he's got ….it's up to him how far he goes. He's got every opportunity to go to the highest level."
Barrett started at fullback in Canterbury's last pre-season hit out against Wellington last Friday before replacing Ben Volavola at first five-eighth, where he laid on a perfect inside ball for Marshall Suckling before throwing an intercept that culminated in a late try for the visitors.
"We was strong when he did get opportunities," said Robertson, who needs a new fullback after Tom Taylor's move to France.
Barrett's plans to play in midfield are jeopardised by Rob Thompson and Jack Goodhue and although he slotted in at No 10 against Wellington, Richie Mo'unga and Volavola [who can also play fullback] are the leading playmakers.
"It was good to get out back and see a few new things," said Barrett, after his trial outing.
He also noted the step up in pace and intensity, although the hit out only featured few provincial stalwarts.
""I've been playing club rugby and under-20s so it's a big step up. It'll be hard to adapt but I'm looking forward to it."
Barrett said that process would be eased through his background with Robertson and the presence of lock Scott Barrett in the squad.
He even welcomed the inevitable comparison with Beauden, the other back in the family.
"That's just the way it goes, you expect that sort of stuff. I've got no problem with it," he said.
"I'm taller and lankier. That's the best I can do."