Steve Hansen says Jordie Barrett has the “swagger” to “boss the game” at fly-half when New Zealand face Namibia in the Rugby World Cup on Sunday.
Barrett will don the famous All Blacks number 10 jersey for the first time in the Pool B encounter at Tokyo Stadium, where the defending champions should claim a bonus-point win to go top of Pool B and put one foot in the quarter-finals.
All three Barrett brothers scored tries in a 63-0 battering of Canada on Wednesday, making history by becoming the first siblings to play in the same New Zealand side at a World Cup.
Youngest brother Jordie has played as a full-back, centre and wing at international level, and New Zealand head coach Hansen says he can thrive as a makeshift fly-half in a much-changed side that will be captained by Sam Whitelock.
“I don’t see him playing too often at 10,” Hansen said. “But in the circumstances we’ve got, someone had to do it and he’s our best choice.
“He’s a back-three player, I think. As he gets older, he may end up in the midfield, but for me, he’s a got a skillset ideally suited to the back three – he’s got a big boot, he’s good under the high ball, he’s brave on the chase and he’s got good handling skills.
“He’s got plenty of swagger. That boy is not short of it. But I don’t think you can mistake swagger or confidence for arrogance. He’s not an arrogant boy, he’s a humble kid.
“He’ll be looking forward to it. I know he’s excited by the challenge and he’ll boss the game, because that’s how he plays.”
ICYMI | Presenting your All Blacks team to take on Namibia!
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) October 4, 2019
Fit-again lock Brodie Retallick will make his first appearance of the tournament for the holders.
Centre Johan Deysel returns to the starting line-up to lead a Namibia team which shows nine changes after the 57-3 thumping by South Africa.
First-choice fly-half Cliven Loubser plays no part as a result of an ankle injury suffered against the Springboks, so TC Kisting comes in at number 10.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
New Zealand – Brodie Retallick
Retallick returns ahead of schedule after a 10-week absence caused by a dislocated left shoulder. Hansen says he has been “counting down the days” for what is set to be a short comeback, with an eye on making a bigger impact later in the tournament.
Namibia – Johan Deysel
Centre Deysel recovered from a shoulder injury to come off the bench against South Africa and the centre will want to make his presence felt in midfield, with fond memories of scoring against New Zealand in the last World Cup.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– New Zealand have won their last 16 World Cup matches, the longest run of victories by any side in the history of the tournament.
– Namibia have played the most World Cup matches of any side yet to win a match at the tournament, losing each of their 21 fixtures.
– The All Blacks have won 13 of the 32 World Cup matches that have been won by 60 points or more, after their drubbing of Canada.
– The two nations have met in just one Test, that clash coming at the Olympic Stadium in London at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, with the All Blacks winning 58-14.
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