Don’t panic, Beauden Barrett hasn’t gone all Beatles on us.
No band worth their salt in the 1960s and 70s failed to make a pilgrimage to India, in search of spiritual and physical enlightenment through things such as yoga.
Barrett’s no hippy, but he has explored different options in his desire to maximise his rugby potential. A first five-eighth with a cluttered mind is no good to anyone and it’s the clarity and calm he’s found since turning to pilates and yoga that he credits for his recent performances.
Barrett’s always had the physical ability to do great things on the rugby paddock, but that’s now combined with the mental strength to manage a match as well.
“I’m always looking to grow my game. I still have a lot of growth to do. The key thing is I’m just enjoying my footy at the moment,” Barrett said after being named to start for New Zealand in Saturday’s clash with Australia at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium.
“There are other physical things but I think if you get your head right [and] your approach to the game [you give yourself a good chance to succeed]. That right balance is crucial.
“I’ve been working on my flexibility, that’s been vital for me. I’m quite a stiff bloke so extra sessions here and there have certainly helped.”
And those extra sessions have came in the shape of yoga and pilates.
“It’s been great,” said Barrett.
“It’s more a recovery thing for me. It’s great for the mind as well as the body. It’s just getting that right balance and I’ve seen great benefits from that.”
The Hurricanes were the first big beneficiaries, as Barrett led them to a maiden Super Rugby title. Now he’s been given the chance to command the All Blacks as well.
“I wasn’t expecting it, no. Like most weeks I’m used to coming off the bench in this team and that has been my role in the past. I have a different role this week which I’m excited about,” Barrett said of his selection.
New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen said Barrett had more than earned his promotion, despite Aaron Cruden’s own fine form for the Chiefs.
This All Blacks team is rapidly evolving and Saturday will provide a gauge on how far there’s left to go. Barrett, second five-eighth Ryan Crotty and centre Malakai Fekitoa all have a bit to prove, while you could debate whether right wing is Ben Smith’s best spot.
Smith’s versatility means he’ll also cover midfield on Saturday, in the event anything happens to Crotty or Fekitoa.
In the pack Nathan Harris starts at hooker, in place of the injured Dane Coles, with loosehead prop Kane Hames set to make his test debut off the bench. Hansen said rotating props was a big part of the All Blacks’ gameplan, so Hames was certain to get on the park.
Loose forwards Jerome Kaino and Kieran Read would slip into lock if required, given there was no specialist cover on the bench.