New Zealand back Jordie Barrett expects to be targeted by Australia after being selected at centre for this weekend’s Bledisloe Cup clash.
The Hurricanes star has plenty of experience at 12 but has rarely played there at Test level, with most of his starts coming at full-back.
With New Zealand suffering an injury crisis in the position due to both David Havili and Quinn Tupaea being absent for Saturday’s encounter, it left head coach Ian Foster with a decision to make.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck appeared in line to start but Foster has instead gone with Barrett, meaning the former rugby league star has to make do with a place on the bench.
Comfortable at centre
“I’m comfortable with 12,” the 25-year-old said. “It just presents another challenge at this level.
“I got a bit of a taste last week, and it’s another test at Eden Park against an Aussie side that will be hurting. I’m expecting a bit of traffic.”
Barrett has certainly received backing from his midfield partner Rieko Ioane, who said: “Jordie is a strong carrier and he’s got a good pass-kick skill set that provides another threat to our backline.
“His skills from the back where you need that vision means he slots in perfectly to suit our backline.”
Following the injuries sustained in the first Bledisloe Cup match against the Wallabies, Barrett moved to centre which swayed Foster when it came to selecting the squad for this game.
“It’s based on the experience they had last week,” New Zealand’s head coach said.
“We just felt they can start at a high level because they’ve just had the best part of 60 minutes of a test match so that combination’s a bit stronger.
“We just felt that the learnings and experience they had there, just flow through to this game and (we’ll) maybe make some changes later on.”
Although Barrett prefers playing at centre and does so for the Hurricanes, Foster believes that full-back is his position at international level.
The head coach therefore states that this move is only short-term.
“It was a pretty unique situation because we lost two players within about five minutes of each other so it was a late change clearly,” he said.
“But, it’s a ‘what if’ that we have to deal with and it’s a ‘what if’ that I guess we’ve been dealing with at trainings.
“He [Jordie Barrett] went pretty good, he was a bit rusty on a few calls, showed probably too eager in many ways but again, there’s some nice lessons there.
“Roger’s had a couple NPC games, so he’s come back in and training well and has a chance just to watch the game unfold and then… see what happens.”