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Why Beauden Barrett Has To Be The Next New Zealand Number 10

NAPIER, NEW ZEALAND - SEPTEMBER 06: Beauden Barrett of the All Blacks makes a break during The Rugby Championship match between the New Zealand All Blacks and Argentina at McLean Park on September 6, 2014 in Napier, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Beauden Barrett is the obvious choice to become the next New Zealand out-half.

As with most All Blacks sides, when one great player drops out there are usually another three that are willing and able to take his place.

It’s what we’ve become accustomed to with New Zealand over the last decade as the All Blacks’ production line has almost become as famous as the silver and black jersey itself. Every time one great player hangs up his boots, another swoops in just as quick to carve out their own path in New Zealand rugby folklore.

Ma’a Nonu followed Tana Umaga, Brodie Retallick came after Ali Williams, and Aaron Smith was drafted into the All Blacks starting XV just months after Piri Weepu had been nominated for a World Rugby Player Of The Year award in 2011.

The transitions from one player to the next has more or less been seamless over the years, but the recent retirements of Richie McCaw and Dan Carter are really going to put that famed New Zealand production line to the test.

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 01:  Dan Carter of the All Blacks on the attack  during the International Test Match between the United States of America and the New Zealand All Blacks at Soldier Field on November 1, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

In Carter and McCaw, New Zealand lose two three-time World Rugby Player Of The Year award winners, and two players that have asserted themselves as among the very best to ever play the game.

In McCaw, they lose their captain, and a player who has famously won more games as an All Black than most players have had games in an international career, while in Carter, they lose a player who has scored over 10% of New Zealand’s points in international rugby since 1903.

As such, it’s fair to say that both players are unequivocally irreplaceable, but when New Zealand take on Wales in Wellington Saturday 18 June, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen will unveil a new number 7 and a new number 10. That’s just a given.

The openside spot will largely be a three way battle between the Hurricanes’ Ardie Savea, the Crusaders’ Matt Todd and the Chiefs’ Sam Cane, but the fly-half battle will be a little trickier with Beauden Barrett, Aaron Cruden, Lima Sopoaga and Damian McKenzie all being mooted as potential All Black first-five’s.

Sopoaga and McKenzie are unlikely to be serious contenders for the starting role despite both enjoying stellar seasons. Sopoaga was overlooked during last year’s World Cup, with Barrett chosen as the preferred deputy outhalf, while McKenzie has spent most of this season playing at fullback, and is more of threat to dethrone Ben Smith at 15 than to succeed Dan Carter at 10.

If that is to be the case, and both McKenzie and Sopoaga are overlooked, it more or less makes it a head-to-head battle between Cruden and Barrett as to who is the next All Blacks outhalf.

Both players have deputised well in Carter’s absence in the past, with Cruden receiving 37 caps since 2010 while Barrett has made 36 appearances for New Zealand since making his debut in 2012.

Cruden’s torn ACL last season meant that the Chiefs playmaker would miss all of last year’s Rugby Championship and subsequent World Cup, which Barrett would consequently shine in.

This season, it’s been more or less neck and neck with Barrett boasting clear advantages in tries scored and defenders beaten, while Cruden has more try assists, and over the course of their careers has proven to be the better goal kicker of the two.

Both players also share similar defensive statistics with neither one a bad enough defender to really be a genuine target for opposition ball carriers.

The above statistics however do not account for Beauden Barrett’s two try performance against the Melbourne Rebels on Friday evening, where the Taranaki playmaker scored two stunning solo tries whilst also carving his way through the Rebels defence to set up Victor Vito for the Hurricanes opener.

In a mesmerising performance, Barrett impressed mightily with ball in hand but had another off-night with the boot missing two conversions as well as a relatively straightforward penalty shot, which consequently put him at a 57% success rate for the evening.

Despite his kicking woes, the 24 year-old had arguably his best performance of the season but his inconsistency in front of goal may be the only mitigating factor that could prevent the New Plymouth native from becoming the next great All Blacks number 10.

From a traditional, team steering point of view, Aaron Cruden may be the more logical answer for Steve Hansen at 10, but the immense talent that Barrett possesses is undeniable. If Beauden Barrett can replicate what he showed against the Rebels in AAMI Park over the remainder of this season, with improved kicking, then he may well be the natural successor to Dan Carter as the next great All Blacks outhalf.

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.