Barrett expecting Irish backlash

Beauden Barrett is in his happy place but he is wary of the Irish spoiling the party this weekend.

Barrett has every reason to be the one with smiling eyes.

He had a whale of a season for the Blues as they dominated Super Rugby for all but the final week, he is back as the undisputed No1 option for the All Blacks at first five, and he and wife Hannah recently announced they are expecting a second child.

And, after an excellent performance contributed to the All Blacks’ comprehensive win over Ireland in the opening test at Eden Park, he and his team-mates are buoyant before the second clash at Forsyth Barr Stadium this Saturday.

But, after 102 tests, Barrett has been around long enough to know the wounded tourists will be smarting for revenge.

"I’d expect them to bounce back," he said in Dunedin yesterday.

"They’re such a proud side, and they’ll raise their intensity this week.

"I guess it’s do or die for them, because the series is on the line this week, and we can be sure they will respond.

"We know they’re coming, and we also need to rise and be prepared for another brutal test match."

It is 10 years since Barrett made his international debut — in a home test against Ireland.

That was off the bench in the third test of a strange series in which the All Blacks started with a comfortable win (check) then got an almighty fright before escaping with a three-point win in the second test (hmm, interesting).

Barrett then got a 55-minute appearance as a replacement for Aaron Cruden in the third test, which the All Blacks won by the surreal score of 60-0.

Beauden Barrett. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN.
Beauden Barrett. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN.
He said the All Blacks were pleased to cope with the physicality of the Irish at the weekend and win so heavily at Eden Park.

"As expected, we needed to really put our bodies on the line and show that physical intent against the Irish.

"We were certainly up for it and there was no holding back out there.

"We weren’t cluttered. We wanted to go in feeling clear in our strategy so we could go and play simple footy.

"You can overdo it in terms of detail, coming from Super Rugby to international footy and with new combinations and so on.

"I think we can build on that. This is our second week and combinations may continue to grow, so I’d expect us to be a bit more sharp in certain areas."

One well-established combination is in the inside backs.

Barrett revelled in the swift service from fellow centurion Aaron Smith, and said the veteran halfback — who had a relatively quiet season with the Highlanders — had a spring in his step.

"It’s a privilege to be outside him and receive the passes that he throws.

"There’s a real calmness when he speaks. Just the timing of it, and his experience, and the comfort he provides to players around him is invaluable.

"I really enjoy playing with Nuggie. He will say he was rusty but I thought he played really well."

Barrett appeared to rate his own performance merely adequate.

He lamented a couple of missed opportunities but put that down to first-test rust and a lack of time to really get the team in rhythm.

Playing at a high tempo under the roof would give the All Blacks an opportunity to hit their attacking straps, he hoped.

"You can certainly guarantee that down here, and that’s one of the exciting things about being down in Dunedin.

"We want to take our game to another level. We’ve already identified many areas to get better, and I think that’s encouraging."

Younger brother Jordie was the Barrett in the spotlight last year when he scored all of the Hurricanes’ points in a 30-16 win over the Highlanders.

Beauden would happily take a repeat of that on Saturday night.

--  hayden.meikle@odt.co.nz

 

 

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