Steve Hansen faces difficult selection for No.10 starter against Wallabies

When the All Blacks squad for the opening Bledisloe Cup test against Australia is announced on Thursday morning, all eyes will be on who starts at first five eighth.

Will it be the red hot Beauden Barrett, or the traditional work horse Aaron Cruden who gets the nod to start against the Wallabies?

No one can question that Barrett is in career-best form heading into Saturday’s match. Fresh off a Super Rugby title win two weeks ago, more than a handful of people say that this is the time for Barrett to be given the start in a blockbuster match. Continue reading Steve Hansen faces difficult selection for No.10 starter against Wallabies

Barrett highly likely to play in Olympics next year

Don’t be surprised to hear Gordon Tietjens name All Black first five Beauden Barrett as one of his first big selections for the Olympics in Rio next year.

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(Photo credit: Daily Telegraph via Google Images) 

Fairfax Media reported in April that Barrett had thrown his name into the hat for sevens selection next year, but hadn’t spoken to Teitjens personally.

Barrett confirmed he has had discussions with the NZRU regarding his contract that will see him remain with the Hurricanes until the end of 2016.

Barrett has been sidelined from rugby since early may after sustaining a ligament tear in his knee.

With Daniel Carter and Colin Slade heading off shore, plus Aaron Cruden turning down the offer, Barrett now remains one of the leading high-profile All Blacks who Teitjens will be hoping to select for Rio.

Fellow Hurricane player Julian Savea has also admitted to being highly interested in going to the Olympics.

Barrett has always been an elusive player with ball in hand, his footwork is pristine, and his speed able to match some of sevens most dangerous talents.

There is no doubting that Barrett’s selection in the Olympic side would be a credit to Teitjens.

Don’t expect a decision to be announced anytime soon though – Barrett must thing long and hard about what missing what could potentially be a year of 15-man rugby should he decide to play sevens.

Barrett may be the first pick All Black starter at first five come the World Cup if he is fit.

But out of all the options that Gordon Teitjens has to pick from, Barrett remains most likely.

All Blacks smell Wallabies prey at Suncorp

A loss to the All Blacks would be the one thing to top off the week from hell for the Wallabies.

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But it could also be the one thing that will finally allow rugby followers to actually have something to say about events that occur on the field for this Wallabies unit.

The Wallabies need fans to have a different focus, we have all heard enough of the crap that this week has offered.

For the All Blacks, this week’s preparation has been called one of the most low key test weeks for an All Blacks side in recent memory.

The squad is set and ready to go, and Beauden Barrett will once again be given the starting role. The Hurricanes first five needs to perform in a little more convincing fashion tonight after not exactly offering any mouth watering performances since being given the run on.

The first was understandable in the rain and wind in Napier, but Barrett is yet to solidify his claim for the regular kicking option even after being given two free goes at the role following Aaron Cruden’s big night on the town last month.

Balance, calmness, and low key is hardly what the feeling will be inside the Wallabies camp tonight in Brisbane.

Because honestly, could the off field issues be any worse?

You’d have to imagine that the Wallabies will throw everything including the kitchen sink on the field tonight as they bid to get that elusive win over the All Blacks.

With all the controversy, some may even have forgotten that one Quade Cooper makes his return to the Wallabies tonight, against his favorite team no less. It wouldn’t be a stretch to also say that many would suddenly remember at kick off that tonight sees Adam Ashley Cooper make his 100th test start.

That’s how bad these issues involving Kurtley Beale, Ewen McKenzie, and Di Patston cloud the Wallabies.

But what should be on the minds of Wallabies fans is concern.

The players in this team have openly and publicly backed Kurtley Beale, and if you look at Beale’s rap sheet of past trouble making, it is absolutely staggering that anyone in the side is fighting Kurtley’s corner. This mindset, perhaps even culture that is running rampant and seemingly growing in the Wallabies camp is unhealthy, and the All Blacks will be more than happy to take full advantage during this evenings test match.

Ewen McKenzie and his men must be asking, “how in the hell do we pull this off?”.

If it is possible, if the off field dramas can possibly be put on the back burner for just 80 minutes, the Wallabies formula to beating the All Blacks will be the same tonight as it has been so many times before.

The playmakers are there, and the ability has always been.

Time and time again we have seen the Wallabies get into positions to score tries, tries which would put the All Blacks on the back foot either very early on in a game or midway through the second half where in recent memory, the Wallabies have began to either claw their way back, or implode completely.

The Wallabies, tonight more than ever before need to come out of the sheds with a hiss and a roar and make a statement from the kick off.

Anything less, and the All Blacks will run away with the match.

Full coverage of tonight’s third and final All Blacks/Wallabies test for 2014 will be live blogged over on michaelpulmanlive.tumblr.com

Reaction: All Blacks victorious in wet and scrappy old night in Napier

Four tries to the All Blacks, a naked female streaker, and yet another poor performance by the referees was the order of the night at McLean Park as the men in black topped a lackluster Agrentine side. 

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Agrentina didn’t help themselves, the lost possession off a scrum which led to an All Black try that should never have happened right on the stroke of halftime absolutely destroyed the souls of every Argentine player after what they felt would have been a good position just a couple of points down at the break.

But they have nobody to blame but themselves. 

The Argentine number 8 clearly had the ball at his disposal and should have whipped it out of the back of the scrum immediately. Halfback kicks into touch, half over. Yet Argentina coughed up possession, and let the All Blacks score a fairly soft try. 

More so than any other team in world rugby, if the All Blacks have time at the scrum to turn and push, they will. Argentina should simply have known better. 

Beauden Barrett was the most talked about player heading into the game as he finally got his first start at 10.

But Barrett, apart from a couple of nifty passes, one of which set up Savea’s second try, didn’t perform to his usual high standard. 

Barrett missed more goals than he made, leading to the All Blacks subbing him off for Colin Slade at the 55 minute mark.

While All Black coach Steve Hansen says “we just wanted to give Slade a decent amount of game time” to the media, in reality the sub was made because the coaches predicted that should the game get close in the last 20, Barrett wasn’t kicking well enough for them to have confidence that he’d kick those important goals. 

This shouldn’t put the selectors off giving Beauden another start in the future though, perhaps on a more dryer night.

Julian Savea came away from an All Blacks game being the person to score the most tries yet again. This seems to be the case more and more as of late, Savea just made some brilliant decisions when he was on the ball, or expecting to receive the ball.  

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While Isreal Dagg says he was just so happy to be playing in front of his home crowd, the fullback will be walking away from the match knowing he didn’t really do much to overly impress the selectors, more so justify his position at starting full back over Ben Smith. 

None of the All Black back line really showed up apart from Savea, and at times Barrett, but given the wet and rainy conditions this cannot be too much of a surprise. 

Another All Blacks win, but yet another poor showing from the so called “top level” referees of rugby union.

Barrett and Dagg must perform tonight in the wet

The All Blacks will need to make sure the basics are done well this evening at a packed out McLean Park. 

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It cannot be understated that tonight is going to be a crucial night for the career of one Beauden Barrett. Despite his amazing form, Barrett simply must deliver at first five this evening.

If it rains like forecasted, goal kicking could be where the game is won or lost. Barrett’s credibility as an All Black starter cannot be questioned, but even the man himself has spoken out in the media this week saying he does feel the pressure of the occasion. 

Many do feel that the Hurricanes first five is already deserving enough of the 10 All Black jersey, but nevertheless Barrett needs to do his job and do it well tonight. 

Another exciting change in the lineup is the return of Israel Dagg to the fullback position. 

Fresh off winning the Shield last week with Hawkes Bay, Dagg walks into his first home test in his native Napier under some intense pressure. Based on form, Ben Smith has been streaks ahead of Dagg for the past two seasons.

It is absolutely imperative that Isreal Dagg injects himself into the game and not hold back. If he sees a chance to run with the ball, he needs to do so. Running rugby will be difficult enough in the wet conditions so his punting game will also need to be to its usual high standard as the All Blacks will no doubt kick for territory if the rain does arrive. 

From an Argentina perspective, there is no doubting that this is a rugby nation which is quickly becoming a force to not be overlooked.

The Argentines should have beaten the Springboks last weekend, and they have arrived in New Zealand heavily talking up their chances of knocking the All Blacks over.

All Black skipper Richie McCaw commented that his side will need to be patient early on in the match.

The forward pack is always talked about when Argentina play the All Blacks, but the Argentines have talked about tackling low in the media this week, their plan is to stop any All Black from breaking through the line with some powerful and committed defense. 

If you look at the history, Argentina versus All Blacks games played in New Zealand have always been relatively close on the scoreboard. McCaw has said he expects that trend to continue tonight. 

The All Blacks to win tonight. Barrett and Dagg both must perform, no matter what the conditions. 

Update: Aaron Cruden chest injury confirmed

Just minutes after tonights feature on Beauden Barrett was published, Fairfax Media via the sports bulletin on TVNZ News broke a story which has confirmed that Barrett will indeed get his first test start at first five for the match against Argentina this weekend. 

Aaron Cruden has been ruled out of this weekends test after suffering a chest injury. Cruden picked up the injury during the Bledisloe Cup victory over Australia at Eden Park two weeks ago. 

Barrett’s first All Blacks start playing at first five will likely be officially announced by the All Blacks tomorrow morning. 

All Black selectors must give Beauden Barrett a start this weekend

If there is one thing that should be certain ahead of tomorrows All Black squad announcement, it is that Beauden Barrett will make his first test start at first five.

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For many, this should have happened well before now.

Ahead of the English home series back in June, a lot of opinion was weighed in on wether or not the All Black selectors should have started Beauden Barrett in that very first test. Many felt, without doubting Aaron Cruden’s obvious skill, that the lack of rugby he had had during the Super Rugby season due to injury was cause for the selectors to finally give Barrett a go as a starter. 

Barrett has started a test match for the All Blacks once, but that was at fullback. 

The Hurricanes playmaker had been due to have his first test start at number 10 in the third English test at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton, but an injury to Conrad Smith saw the inclusion of Malakai Fekitoa. Not wanting to make two changes to the backline, Barrett was put onto the bench yet again, as Cruden was given the start in an unplanned move by selectors.

So, even though Barrett was named as a first five starter, it never eventuated. 

In the 21 tests Barrett has played in his already successful international career, 19 of those have been from the bench. One of the starts was at full back, and the other which had been planned and was at first five, never came to be. 

With all that is right about giving Barrett a start this weekend in Napier, the impact that this young playmaker from New Plymouth has had in the All Blacks side after coming off the bench cannot be overlooked. Barrett is arguably the one player on the reserves list that impacts a game the most.

But the All Black selectors need to look ahead to the future with their team selection tomorrow morning.

The way that Barrett has been maturing as a rugby player, many would predict that come Rugby World Cup time next year, Barrett would be the ideal starter, not Aaron Cruden, and health wise certainly not Daniel Carter.

Given Carter’s current comeback from injury, the overseas games against Argentina and the Springboks at the end of September could see Carter be given his earned return All Black run on then, and you’d also have to think that from a commercial standpoint, the game against USA in Chicago in early November would suit a Carter start as well. 

So, this weekend against Argentina, in front of what will be a sell out crowd in Napier, it is logical to start Beauden Barrett both for future planning, experiment, but also the fact that this young talent has more than earned it as well. 

Kaino returns to All Blacks as June internationals squad named

Jerome Kaino will return to the All Blacks for the three test series against England beginning next Saturday at Eden Park, as was the expected outcome following today’s squad announcement.

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The two new faces set to make their international debuts are Highlanders midfielder Malakai Fekitoa and Blues lock Patrick Tuipulotu, as Hurricanes centre Alapati Leiua misses out on grabbing the black jersey, much to the surprise of a few keen followers of the Wellington sensation. Heading up the key playmaker roles, the three fly halves of Aaron Cruden, Beauden Barrett, and Colin Slade were all named in the All Blacks for the English series.

Andy Ellis misses out on selection, with in form halfback Aaron Smith surely the number one starting pick ahead of TJ Perenara and Tawera Kerr Barlow.

All Black coach Steve Hanson says he wants a balance between youth and proven form in the black jersey in his squad.