Gerry Thornley: Jordie Barrett’s inclusion signals bold All Blacks approach
20-year-old brother of Beauden comes in at fullback; one of three changes in backline
Scott Barrett, Jordie Barrett and Beauden Barrett are all in the New Zealand squad for Saturday’s match against the British & Irish Lions. All three featured in last month’s Test against Samoa. Photograph: Hannah Peters/Getty Images
Steve Hansen and the All Blacks think tank have caused something of a surprise, and taken something of a gamble, by backing young, exciting talent ahead of experience for Saturday’s series decider against the Lions in Auckland.
Against most expectations, they have kept faith in Hurricanes’ powerhouse midfielder Ngani Laumape, who replaced the suspended Sonny Bill Williams in last week’s second Test and whose inexperience was somewhat exposed, not least in each of the Lions’ tries.
Another eye-catching change sees 20-year-old Jordie Barrett, younger brother of Beauden and Scott, who will also be making his first Test start at fullback. He made his debut off the bench against Manu Samoa in the All Blacks’ warm-up Test three weeks ago.
The third change in personnel, however, sees the experienced Julien Savea recalled at left wing for Reiko Ioane, who made his All Blacks debut in the first Test and whose relative weakness under the high ball was exposed in Wellington last weekend. Israel Dagg reverts back to right wing in the absence of Waisake Naholo, who didn’t train fully during the week. The recalled Malakai Fekitoa is on the bench.
One intriguing aspect of the two Barrett backs playing alongside each other (a third, lock Scott, is on the reserves bench), is which one of them will kick for goal.
Beauden landed all his kicks at Eden Park in the first Test, but last week he missed three, including a couple of relatively easy ones, and this season Jordan has had the higher ratio than his older brother as the duty has been shared at the Hurricanes.
“This final match in the Lions series is going to be a cracker,” Hansen added. “It’s the series we expected it to be, as the Lions have quality players. It now comes down to this Saturday – the winner takes all – and that’ll create its own unique pressures and it’s going to be interesting to see how both sides cope with it.
“We’ve had a good week of preparation and are very excited by the opportunity that’s ahead of us, and I’m sure the Lions are as well. We know it’ll be a physical and intense match, but just as importantly, it’ll be a game where both teams will have moments of momentum, and the ability of everyone to adapt and adjust throughout the 80 minutes will be crucial.”
Kieran Read will captain the side in an unchanged pack on the day he becomes the seventh All Blacks to reach 100 caps after Richie McCaw, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock, Daniel Carter, Ma’a Nonu and Mils Muliaina. Aaron Cruden and Charlie Faumuina are also expected to play their 50th Test matches from the bench.
All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: “Firstly, on behalf of the All Blacks and all of New Zealand, I’d like to congratulate ‘Reado’ on reaching the milestone of 100 Test matches.
“It’s a special achievement to play just one Test, so to play 100 is a remarkable effort. His playing ability speaks for itself and inspires others, and he now joins a unique group of special All Blacks. We’d also like to congratulate Jordie on making his first Test start in what will be a very memorable occasion for him.”
NEW ZEALAND (v Lions, Third Test, Eden Park, Auckland, Saturday, 7.35pm; 8.35am Irish time): Jordie Barrett; Israel Dagg, Anton Lienert-Brown, Ngani Laumape, Julien Savea; Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith; Joe Moody, Codie Taylor, Owen Franks; Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock; Jerome Kaino, Sam Cane, Kieran Read (captain).
Replacements: Nathan Harris, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Scott Barrett, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Aaron Cruden, Malakai Fekitoa.
LIONS: Liam Williams; Anthony Watson, Jonathan Davies, Owen Farrell, Elliot Daly; Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Tadhg Furlong; Maro Itoje, Alun Wyn Jones; Sam Warburton (capt), Seán O’Brien, Taulupe Faletau.
Replacements: Ken Owens, Jack McGrath, Kyle Sinckler, Courtney Lawes, CJ Stander, Rhys Webb, Ben Te’o, Jack Nowell.