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ANALYSIS:The next All Blacks coach may have to re-visit the dilemma of where best to use the brilliance of Beauden Barrett.
If the coach is Ian Foster, he may decide to persist with Barrett – two-time World Rugby player of the year as a first five-eighth – in the fullback role.
But, there is no guarantee – after the All Blacks’ 19-7 Rugby World Cup semifinal defeat to England – Foster will automatically ascend to the top job when Steve Hansen steps down.
Any new coach will bring some frisson to the selection process. No-one’s place will be guaranteed.
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Hansen was a latent convert to the Barrett-at-the-back fan club, moving the Taranaki star to the No 15 jumper in Rugby World Cup year to accommodate Richie Mo’unga at first five-eighth.
Some saw the move as a masterstroke – and it certainly seemed that way as the All Blacks clocked up big scores in World Cup pool games, romping to a quarterfinal victory over Ireland.
There was also a hint of pragmatism about Barrett’s positional switch.
Damian McKenzie was a chance to be the All Blacks’ first-choice fullback for the 2019 Rugby World Cup tournament, until he tore knee ligaments during the Super Rugby season.
McKenzie, initially a test utility who had covered first five-eighth, fullback and wing, has played 15 of his 23 tests in the No 15 jersey.
By 2018, Hansen was firmly wedded to a “two play-maker” system, settling for Barrett at first five with McKenzie at fullback, with both alternating as first receiver.
In the early part of the 2018 test season, Hansen, experimented with a Barrett brothers duo – Jordie at fullback and Beauden at No 10.
But McKenzie – who has also played a lot of rugby at first five – started at fullback for the Bledisloe Cup test in Japan in October 2018.
He forged a fine understanding with Beauden Barrett in an impressive 37-20 win. The next major tests were tougher assignments – with the All Blacks edging England 16-15 before losing 16-9 to Ireland.
Hansen may well have stuck to the Barrett-McKenzie axis this year had the Chiefs star not succumbed to injury, although Mo’unga was making a confident claim for more test starts after driving the Crusaders to a third consecutive Super Rugby title.
The Canterbury pivot sta
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