Eddie Jones shoots from the hip. He is also a devastating exponent of the art of mind games. But with England not scheduled to play New Zealand for a long time, why has he decided to criticise Beauden Barrett, the World Rugby Player of the Year?
Eddie Jones is a good man-manager. Witness the way he got George Ford to perform in Australia following an underwhelming season with Bath. He has re-charged Chris Robshaw – a man he terms the best blindside in Europe. But is there really any need to go after New Zealand out-half Beauden Barrett? Answer: no.
After last weekend’s action, as per Fox Sports, Jones said this of the No. 10 – the man who did more than any other to secure the All Blacks’ victory in Dublin:
“People rave about Beauden Barrett but I don’t. I don’t want to go into it any more than that. I’ll leave it at that.
“I don’t pick the Player of the Year but I always thought Barrett would get it because the Kiwis run everything. When you run everything, you’ve got a good chance of winning it.”
Plenty of people will agree on the latter point about the All Blacks receiving leniency from World Rugby officials, but his criticism of Barrett is simply laughable.
I am one of those people who ‘raves’ about Barrett. Why doesn’t Jones want to go into why he doesn’t rate him? It can’t be because he doesn’t want to score mind-game points against the Kiwis. It’s because he knows what he’s said can’t be substantiated. And this is why.
And what a superstar Beauden Barrett is. Has all the skills to be one of the best ever.
— Adam Lewis (@AdamJamesLewis0) November 19, 2016
Here is a guy often playing for New Zealand in the back three who had the task of replacing the greatest attacking out-half ever. And instead, he has made Dan Carter look pedestrian. Barrett’s goal kicking may be well below par, but there’s nothing intrinsic in the 10 jersey that means the out-half must be the kicker. In France, for example, the tradition is that the scrum-half takes penalties and conversions.
If Jonny Wilkinson’s paradigm shift was to change the role of the out-half into a defensive wall, and Dan Carter exemplified creative finesse, then Barrett’s contribution is to make the No. 10 a piercing running threat.
Although 10s tend to have less space than outside backs, because they play at first receiver, they can get the fastest ball. Tactically, that is why Barrett is so dangerous through the middle.
Barrett’s kick passes are the best in the business, he chips like a golfer getting out of a bunker, his defence is resolute. And everything he does is at pace. No wonder oppositions can’t handle him.
Eddie Jones is more than entitled to his opinion. But with England not facing the All Blacks anytime soon this mind game doesn’t serve any purpose whatsoever.
In fact, it’s so laughable that all it does is undermine Jones’ credibility the next time he says an England player is in elite company.
He’d have been better served keeping his mouth shut.
Daniel Rey, Pundit Arena
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