All Blacks, Namibia giving 10s first starts at World Cup
TOKYO (AP) — In more than two years as an All Black, Jordie Barrett has never played flyhalf.
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen asked him Friday to start there against Namibia in their Rugby World Cup pool match on Sunday.
Barrett answered, “Yes,” and grinned.
That was what Hansen wanted to hear and see. And so Barrett, the younger brother of star playmaker Beauden Barrett, will run out in the No. 10 jersey at Tokyo Stadium as the All Blacks look to confirm a quarterfinals spot. In another surprise, his backup is scrumhalf TJ Perenara, who has never played flyhalf for New Zealand either.
With only a four-day turnaround after beating Canada 63-0 on Wednesday in Oita, New Zealand wanted to field as many fresh players as possible. So there were 13 changes to the starting lineup.
Brodie Retallick, a former world player of the year, will make his first appearance in 10 weeks, since he dislocated his left shoulder against South Africa in July. He's delighted to play a week earlier than expected, and resume his lock partnership with Sam Whitelock, who has the captaincy from the rested Kieran Read.
Jordie Barrett, who played a full game against Canada on the wing, said he’s covered 10 for Super Rugby’s Hurricanes, and last started there for his university team. With Damian McKenzie injured before the tournament, and the All Blacks bringing only two 10s in Richie Mo'unga and Beauden Barrett, Jordie has been running there in camp, along with others, as the coaches have tried to broaden their options.
Hansen admitted Jordie’s future was as a wing-fullback but they needed him at 10 for now, and gave him about 52 hours to get ready.
“One, he has played there before at a lower level,” Hansen said. “Two, he has got the skills set, we believe, to be able to run the game. And (he has) the confidence and skills to be able to execute as well as run it. We're reasonably confident he will be fine.
“He has plenty of swagger, he’s not short of it. I don’t think you can mistake swagger or confidence with arrogance. He's not an arrogant boy. He's a humble kid. He will be looking forward to it. He will get out there and boss the team.”
Jordie said he’d already spoken briefly to Beauden and Mo'unga.
“I feel well prepared," Jordie said. “The beauty about the 10 days (off) before Canada, we had time to understand our structures and game plan and what we want to get out of these two games.
“There’s a few adjustments I'll have to make (from wing). It’s more just set-piece and timings. I'll have to equip myself over the next 48 hours so I can perform on Sunday.”
Hansen said Perenara will back up Jordie, and the third scrumhalf in the squad, Brad Weber, will back up starting scrumhalf Aaron Smith.
Smith said Perenara had been training at 10 in camp, and was excited about it.
“There was a joke this morning,” Smith said, “that all three 9s could be out there because Brad’s quick enough to be a wing. It would be awesome. There'd be plenty of chat!”
But Hansen had to tell the 9s to focus on their jobs.
“Jordie’s the boss and they’re not. They might think they're the boss but not really,” Hansen said. “No. 10s are your game computers, they make the choice about what to do. If 9s start making choices, you end up with chaos.”
Hansen said Retallick will be eased back, playing no more than 30-40 minutes against Namibia.
“It's great to have Brodie back,” the coach said. “The medical staff have done some extremely good work with him. His prehab and rehab work has been outstanding, and Mother Nature, I suppose. He's a good healer. Let's just hope he stays healed.”
By coincidence, Namibia’s own flyhalf, Helarius Axasman Kisting, is starting a test at 10 for the first time in his 11th test. The regular, Clive Loubser, has a swollen ankle after losing to South Africa 57-3 last weekend.
“(Kisting) plays club rugby in Romania and he's gone there on his own,” Namibia coach Phil Davies said. “I admire his resilience and ambition to improve himself and provide for his family. He's a very rounded young guy. He's got good handling skills, he'll be a nice attacking threat for us.”
The Namibia selection resembles more the lineup which lost its opener to Italy 47-22 in Fukuoka, with nine of the starting XV back, and a first appearance in this World Cup for flanker Prince Gaoseb, the youngest player in their squad at 21.
Center and captain Johan Deysel has also recovered to start. Deysel scored a try in Namibia’s only previous match against New Zealand, a 58-14 loss in the 2015 World Cup.
“It had a big impact on my life. A lot of people remember that try,” Deysel said. “It sort of put Namibia on the map, and that can happen to any young player on Sunday.”
New Zealand: Ben Smith, Sevu Reece, Jack Goodhue, Anton Linert-Brown, George Bridge, Jordie Barrett, Aaron Smith; Ardie Savea, Sam Cane, Shannon Frizell, Sam Whitelock (captain), Brodie Retallick, Nepo Laulala, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody. Reserves: Dane Coles, Ofa Tuungafasi, Angus Ta'avao, Patrick Tuipulotu, Matt Todd, Brad Weber, TJ Perenara, Rieko Ioane.
Namibia: Johan Tromp, Lesley Klim, Justin Newman, Johan Deysel (captain), JC Greyling, Helarius Axasman Kisting, Damian Stevens; Janco Venter, Thomasau Forbes, Prince Gaoseb, Tjiuee Uanivi, PJ Van Lill, AJ De Klerk, Torsten George Van Jaarsveld, Andre Rademeyer. Reserves: Obert Nortje, Nelius Theron, Johannes Coetzee, Johan Retief, Adriaan Booysen, Eugene Jantjies, Darryl De La Harpe, Janry du Toit.