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Dublin: 8 °C Monday 10 December, 2018
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Beauden Barrett happily adapting to get 'excited about chasing kicks'

The All Black number 10 is keen to embrace the varied conditions that the northern hemisphere offers

Beauden Barrett in Blanchardstown today.
Beauden Barrett in Blanchardstown today.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

BEAUDEN BARRETT TAKES another sip of coffee and unwittingly unleashes a comedic pause as he’s asked to consider another big game ahead.

“It’s exciting,” he says with a not very excited tone of voice after letting the black liquid go down his gullet.

It’s halfway through his media duty at the All Blacks’ Blanchardstown base and he has already mentioned how excited he is quite a few times.

But he’s not wrong either, the whole country is talking about the imminent clash of the number one and two ranked rugby teams in the world and whether we might see them swap places going into a World Cup year.

Exciting is an understatement and Barrett is using the word as much to point at areas that require focus as to keep a rein on his mental preparations.

Though he is one of the world’s best out-halves, Barrett is still keen on improving his game. So while he remains a few years off needing to consider being without that trademark searing pace, he welcomes the very different conditions brought by northern hemisphere rugby and the opportunity they bring to broaden his game.

New Zealand's Beauden Barrett Barrett in Twickenham. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

New Zealand warmed up for this weekend’s clash with Ireland by doggedly forcing a 15-16 win over England in Twickenham, a day when they had to show plenty of grit to fight back from 15-0 down in torrential rain. It wasn’t the Beauden Barrett regular viewers of southern hemisphere competitions are used to, and he was more impressive for that.

“Your tactics as a team have to change,” says Barrett of his approach to playing in the northern hemisphere. 

“How we drive a team in the game, we have to adapt on the go. We can assume some things going into a game, but then they change. Weather conditions have an influence, especially up here.

“It’s a great test. We’re so used to playing quite an expansive game down in the southern hemisphere, so it’s always a test for a Kiwi fly-half coming up here and experiencing something different.”

Different experiences, and discovering new triggers  for all that excitement.

“(Against England) we just had to get excited about controlling what we could control and get excited about chasing kicks instead of running with ball-in-hand.

“Often the best offence in those conditions is our defence. And it’s almost like, ‘you guys have a go if you want to play with ball-in-hand.’ It was pretty obvious they didn’t want to…”

Beauden Barrett Barrett in the Institute of Sport gym. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Ireland will be a different prospect and the forecast for this Saturday night at the Aviva promises a clear dry run. But mid-November, it’s best not to rely too much on predictions of that nature.

Besides, there is a long-term approach to bear in mind for the very best teams. There are career-defining matches coming up in Japan next year. They are the games all this preparation is for. Attack coach Ian Foster jokes the World Cup host nation is susceptible to ‘the odd typhoon’ even if conditions will primarily bring a hard, dry track.

“If you go back the last 12 months then the games we lost and drew were in wet conditions,” adds Foster.

We probably didn’t adapt as well as we needed, but when you play most of your rugby and it’s not like that, then that’s why these are experiences for us. And the 7pm kick-off (means) if it’s not raining then chances are conditions are still going to be a bit slippery.”

Conditions have less to do with swinging a Test match than how the respective teams adapt to them. The sun was splitting the pavement on Michigan Avenue when Ireland managed their one and only win over the All Blacks.

“When you do lose in an All Black jersey it’s never nice,” says Barrett, admitting the bitter taste of Chicago still lingers.

Rob Kearney with Beauden Barrett and Kieran Read Scrappy: New Zealand struggled to combat Irelland in the air in Chicago Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The 27-year-old looks back on Soldier Field as a lesson to expect the unexpected. He ended up playing fullback by close of business that day, but he had team-mates sent much further out of their comfort zone as hooker Codie Taylor shuffled to the back row and poor Ardie Savea had to attempt a poor impression of his brother Julian on the wing.

“We can draw from those experiences, just a small reminder of how we felt in that changing room – to always respect Ireland. Also, know they’re a smart team, they’ll throw a few things at us we’ve never seen before.

“Also, they’re playing well, they’re very creative, so that gets us in a good mental spot for this coming week and whenever we’ll play them in the future.”

Two years on from Chicago, two years on from Barrett’s Lansdowne Road masterclass, they’re back. So excuse his deadpan delivery, there’s still plenty of time to get swept up in the hype.

“It’s exciting, but you’ll see most of that later in the week.”

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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