Tommy Dickson/INPHO Sexton attempts to prevent Barrett from scoring in 2016.
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'He's all class' - Barrett still full of admiration for Sexton 100 caps on
The All Blacks out-half made his debut against Ireland back in 2012.

WHEN BEAUDEN BARRETT made his Test debut off the bench against Ireland back in 2012, Johnny Sexton was Ireland’s starting out-half.

Sexton is six years Barrett’s senior but it is a mark of the latter’s quality that they both reached the 100-cap mark in the past fortnight.

Barrett became a centurion two weekends ago at the age of 30, while Sexton enjoyed a fantastic reception as he hit 100 against Japan last Saturday at the age of 36.

Back in 2012, Barrett came off the bench in the first half of the All Blacks’ 60-0 hammering of Ireland in Hamilton, showing plenty of the potential that has since seen him develop into a World Cup winner and two-time World Rugby player of the year.

It remains to be seen if Barrett starts at out-half opposite Sexton this weekend, with Richie Mo’unga also in contention, but he would enjoy getting the opportunity to do so.

“He’s a very good player,” said Barrett of Sexton. “He’s so influential for their team and he’s all class so of course, you love these match-ups. You don’t get too caught up in it but you do appreciate who your opponent is and the team you’re playing.

“He brought up his 100th cap last week and it was evident that his team got up for him and they put in a really good performance. So they’ll be on a high, he’ll be buzzing so a great opportunity and hopefully, I get it this weekend.

“I admire his play, his longevity, and how influential he is for his team. Of course, he has great skillsets. One of the strengths of his game is his ability to get second touches post-pass, and follow up and get another touch like that.

“There is a lot to admire about him and the way he plays. In terms of his mentality, he’s a clear competitor. He loves to win, he loves to get amongst the physicality and he’s a huge part of their team and how they play.”

rieko-ioane-anton-lienert-brown-jordie-barrett-will-jordan-david-havili-samuel-whitelock-and-tj-perenara-celebrate-with-beauden-barrett-after-winning-his-100th-cap-for-the-all-blacks Billy Stickland / INPHO Barrett won his 100th cap against Wales. Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

The All Blacks are now 13 weeks into what they have dubbed ‘a tour like no other,’ which has involved the Rugby Championship in Australia, a trip to the US, and this autumn schedule in Wales, Italy, Ireland, and France.

They’re missing their families immensely at this stage but Barrett believes this long time on the road together has formed stronger connections than ever within All Blacks camp, both on and off the pitch.

Former Ireland scrum coach Greg Feek, now in the same role with the Kiwi, is in charge of organising a few excursions this week as much as Covid-19 caution allows.

“He has booked us in at the Guinness factory one night this week so all the lads are looking forward to that, getting out and experiencing that,” said Barrett.

“He can’t help himself. We are in a bubble but we’re doing our best to get out there and maximise those opportunities as a touring team in these awesome countries. It’s great to be back in Ireland and we’ll do that.”

As for rugby matters, Barrett is expecting a tight, physical, and tactical battle against Ireland at the Aviva Stadium, where they won in 2016 but lost in 2018.

“Over the last couple of days, I have been looking at clips and also following them from abroad and looking at results. Obviously that result at the weekend was a significant one, blowing Japan out of the water.

“They’ve always been in the fight in all the Six Nations games. I think what you see is a very strong and hard-working and united team. A team you have to work hard to break down over 80 minutes.”

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