Category: The Rugby Championship

Grounding the Beauden Barrett debate in context

The debate around Beauden Barrett’s hold on the All Blacks’ fly-half shirt – and the challenges by Damian McKenzie and Richie Mo’unga – is undoubtedly a valid one, with McKenzie having torn the French defence to pieces in their last test and Mo’unga putting together an exceptional string of postseason performances in Super Rugby.

However, two important factors are rarely noted in discussion of Barrett’s performance: the overall decline in performance of the Hurricanes in Super Rugby (particularly in defence), and the clear improvement in the areas of the fly-half’s game which were weakest when he assumed the starting jersey in 2016.

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The importance of Matt Giteau’s return to Australia’s attack

Australia’s attack excels at creating line breaks in the channels outside 13. Despite three defeats in their June series, they scored 10 tries to England’s 9 and created 39 line breaks to England’s 19 (per ESPN), looking most threatening when they moved the ball into these wider channels. It’s in these areas that Israel Folau is most threatening; while he is closer to the action at outside centre, when he plays at fullback (as he will on Saturday) he is able to make arcing runs from behind his centres and hit the gap before turning downhill. Bernard Foley’s range & timing of passing, along with his angles of running at first receiver, help put Folau into this space. Australia were reasonably successful in this area despite starting a centre partnership of Samu Kerevi and Tevita Kuridrani in two of the three tests; the return of Matt Giteau as a second ball-player to the midfield should make this even more of a threat on Saturday.

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