RWC 2019: Cirque du Barrett Indispensable to All Blacks

Every sporting code has its freaks. You know the ones. Players capable of conjuring up extraordinary moments seemingly out of thin air, giving themselves and their teams an added advantage in a tight contest, that little something extra.

These individuals don’t come around often but, when they do, are more often on the winning side than not. I’m talking about the ones that attract the biggest crowds, those riddled with X factor that possess the ability to turn a contest on its head with a piece of individual excellence in no time at all.

Cricket has AB de Villiers. Football has Lionel Messi. Basketball has LeBron James.
Rugby? Well, rugby has Beauden Barrett.

It almost seems unfair that a player of such ilk should so seamlessly slot into a role previously occupied by one considered to be the greatest ever in his position. And yet that is exactly what transpired following Dan Carter’s international retirement in 2015.

Teams are supposed to struggle following the departure of a former master. But not the All Blacks. Not these All Blacks.

Barrett took to his new role of New Zealand Destroyer in Chief like Neymar to writhing on the floor.
The two-time reigning World Rugby Player of the year has, over the past three seasons, produced mind-boggling performances comparable to those of de Villiers, Messi, and James in their respective sporting codes.

New Zealand has arguably gone up a gear since their third World Cup triumph at Twickenham in 2015, and for that they have mostly Barrett to thank.

For many a moon, though, I remained unconvinced of his talents. I argued that, in turning out for the Hurricanes and New Zealand, he played behind two of the most dominant packs in the game, with game-plans patently tailored to suit his style of play.

Furthermore, the Canes are enjoying perhaps their most successful and consistent era in their history, while the ABs' remain a cut above the rest in virtually all facets of the modern game.
“Sure, Barrett’s good”, I protested, “but can he do what he does behind a struggling pack, against opposition on par with his teammates?”

Then that fantastic British & Irish Lions outfit toured New Zealand in 2017 and, while his powers were checked somewhat, he maintained an above-average standard.

Since that riveting Test series of a year ago, Barrett has continued to evolve and perfect his game. When he is on point, he’s nigh impossible to stop.

The 27-year-old has “freak” written all over him. Blistering pace, uncanny spatial awareness and a rugby brain out of the very top-drawer.

No player demonstrates all three of these traits better than his brilliant setting up of Ngani Laumape’s fourth try against the Blues.

After intense Hurricanes’ pressure at a Blues’ throw-in, and with the Canes leading by 11 with nine to play, Barrett shoots out of the defensive line to intercept a wayward pass from the visitors.

After getting the ball under his spell following an initial juggle, he flings a beautiful behind-the-back pass to a galloping Laumape, who runs the perfect inside line and manages to sprint half the length of the pitch to dot down untouched below the big ‘H’.

It was a startling reminder of Barrett’s freakish class, and reminiscent of the magical pass he threw to Nehe Milner-Skudder during New Zealand’s record 57-0 thumping of the Springboks in Albany last year.

Unfortunately for the rugby nations of the world, though, Beauden is one of three Barretts currently running amok in New Zealand, with fullback Jordie playing alongside his eldest brother in Wellington and second-rower Scott turning out for the Crusaders.

And while Jordie and Scott are undoubtedly cut from the same cloth – one fellow scribe even reckons 21-year-old Jordie will go on to be just as good – it is big brother Beauden who continues to hog the headlines.

With next year’s Rugby World Cup fast approaching, it’s New Zealand’s tournament to lose.
And, with a freak like Beauden Barrett in their arsenal, who could bet against the fact?

Written by Shaun Goosen for Hollywoodbets

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