The All Blacks face what remains of the Rugby Championship with some doubts.
Is Damian McKenzie the right substitute during Ben Smith’s sabbatical break from international rugby? Has Same Cane made himself the rightful owner of the number 7 jersey? And is there a lack of depth in the first row after the injuries of Owen Franks and Joe Moody?
All good questions but there’s another one that must be addressed: Is Beauden Barrett that important to the All Blacks?
Is Beauden Barrett That Important To The All Blacks?
The first-five-eight has earned 56 caps for the men in black, and he’s scored 401 points in the process. Barrett’s style is almost unique, making him one of the present true greats of the sport: maximum agility, top speed and acceleration, tremendous handling skills, a superb understanding of the game and a reliable tackler.
The big doubt in Barrett’s portfolio is his goal-kicking consistency, which has cast a shadow over his recent performances.
Against Argentina the fly-half failed to convert the first three tries, prompting fans to question why should Barrett remain as ‘master of the tee’. Others went to the extreme by asking Steve Hansen to remove Barrett as number ten and place him on the bench or make him the fullback of the team.
But are the All Blacks fans being honest with these doubts? Is Beauden Barrett that bad as a kicker, with no consistency whatsoever?
There Is More Than Goal-Kicking
In the last seven games for New Zealand, Barrett has achieved a 78% goal-kicking success rate, or, in other words thirty-three in forty-two attempts, missing nine conversions in the last seven Test matches.
In comparison to Owen Farrell, Barrett is behind by 2 percentage points, with the English fly-half completing thirty-six of his forty-five attempts. But you didn’t see or hear many people questioning Owen Farrell’s goal-kicking or his place in the British and Irish Lions or Eddie Jones’ England squad.
Yes, Barrett’s current goal-scoring isn’t perfect, but it shouldn’t be snubbed or give anyone the right to question his quality as one of the current true greats of the All Blacks.
His impact on the New Zealand team goes way beyond his skills as a goal-kicker. Going again to his last seven games as an All Black, Beauden Barrett has achieved impressive numbers: 246 meters in 80 carries, scoring three tries and assisting four times; one of the best line-breakers with twelve clean-breaks, fending off twenty-two tacklers with the ball in hand (all OPTA numbers taken from ESPN and SANZAR website).
Beauden Barrett was vital against the British and Irish Lions as against Australia, slicing tacklers, opening spaces and providing good lines of attack for his team-mates.
Adding to his almost perfect attacking performance in recent times, Barret’s tackling skills are to be reckoned with.
Thirty-one tackles, four of which were try-saving tackles, making good use of his speed and agility to keep up with “escaping” wingers (against the British and Irish Lions in the 2nd test, Barrett caught Anthony Watson moments before the Englishman could escaped to the try-line).
Beauden Barrett And The Path To True Greatness
Steve Hansen and the All Blacks have one of the most complete players on the World, who has scored eighty-six points in the last games, which should prove his importance and why you can’t simply leave him out.
A game-changer, a smart player who knows how to unlock the opposition not only with his hands but also with his kicking ability, Barrett is one of the best weapons of destruction of the All Blacks. The cross-kicking and well placed kicks are something the All Blacks and Hurricanes made a trademark in recent times.
With Barrett the All Blacks developed other types of gameplay, risking with awesome cross-kicking or well placed kicks (against Argentina, Barrett placed a master-class kick that landed perfectly in Israel Dagg’s hands in the first half, launching the team on a strong offensive play) menacing their adversaries in many ways.
So, the question remains: Should Beauden Barrett be removed from the All Blacks set-up? No. Doing so would cost the Men In Black.
Lima Sopoaga, Richie Mo’unga and others are good replacements but none can be as consistent as Barrett. Sopoaga was vital for the kiwis against Argentina, entering the game in a moment of need (coincidentally, the Highlander’s first-five-eight took Barrett’s place after he was sent off with a yellow card) and changing the pace.
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) September 9, 2017
Nonetheless, Beauden Barrett is and will be Steve Hansen’s fly-half for the next few years and fans should appreciate his quality even if he misses some kicks from time to time. As a side note, the 26 year old fly-half has scored 23 tries in 56 games… Daniel Carter played 121 games completing 1,598 points, but only 145 points came by try-scoring.
As Steve Hansen said in the post-match interview after the game against Argentina:
“I didn’t hear too many people talking about his goalkicking last week or two weeks ago when we won the Test match… You can’t have it both ways, either talk about when he kicks them and talking down when he misses them, but you can’t have one bottom of a keg… you have to have two bottoms”.
Embed from Getty Images