The rising stars the All Blacks could gamble on at World Cup

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Radio Sport,
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Publish Date
Monday, 29 April 2019, 7:46PM
Jordie Barrett's two early tries paved the way for a convincing Hurricanes win. (Photo / Getty Images)

Watching Beauden Barrett and little brother Jordie give the opposition the sort of treatment they developed years ago when they lived on the family farm in Pungarehu and nobody could get the ball off them would have gladdened the hearts of the All Blacks selectors, if not the coaches and supporters of the Chiefs.

The pair were so dominant for the Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday night in a 47-19 victory, there seemed to be more than just the pair of them on the pitch at times.

Jordie looks a bit like Beauden after being put through a copier at 125 per cent, but there were also elements of the physicality of their sibling Scott, a Crusaders and All Blacks lock, in their performance as their side cemented their position as New Zealand's second-best franchise behind the high-flying red and blacks.

Jordie, 22, looked so at home at fullback, he might as well have been back in his favourite corner of Taranaki along with his four brothers and three sisters. If there was any doubt about his best position after being selected in the midfield and on the wing for the Hurricanes this season, it is over now.

He is a fullback, and while the Chiefs defending in the first quarter against the Hurricanes was perhaps as poor as that seen by any Kiwi team this season, Jordie's two tries in three minutes, the second from 50m out, were a fitting reward for how he would play for the remainder of the match.

If the All Blacks selectors decide that this World Cup in Japan, only 10 hours' flying time from New Zealand, is a tournament for specialists, which they have hinted at, then Jordie must be selected as a fullback along with Ben Smith.

Crusaders outside back George Bridge, a player looming as a big chance to make the squad, can also cover fullback, so, with Rieko Ioane a bolted-on certainty on the left wing, the selectors may decide on rolling the dice on someone a little different on the right wing — a bit like Nehe Milner-Skudder four years ago.

This brings us to Sevu Reece, the 22-year-old wing who is going places in a hurry as proven once again in his side's 36-10 victory over the Lions in Christchurch. Fortunately for the Crusaders, one of those places is not Irish club Connacht after they ripped up his contract following a well-documented off-field incident with his partner.

Reece makes things happen whether he has the ball or not and his two tries against the Lions were freakish: the first when knocking international No 8 Kwagga Smith out of the way to score in the corner, and the second when, under extreme pressure, he sped past defenders in a kick chase.

Reece has played only five Super Rugby matches but must be on the national radar, although the selectors will want to reserve judgment to see how he performs under the pressure of the playoffs.

David Havili must also be in the frame as an outside back utility, but unfortunately for him, he was poor against the Lions.

Afterwards, Crusaders coach Scott Robertson tried to dampen the hype building around Reece but the young Fijian's actions speak louder than anyone's words.

"Look, it's pretty special form, isn't it? I could chuck in that speculation myself, but it's not for me to do that. He just needs to keep playing well," Robertson said.

"When we lost Seta [Tamanivalu after last season], a big, powerful wing, we were really going to miss him, which we do, then Sevu comes in," Robertson said.

"He's little but powerful and explosive and creates a lot. It's a really good get for us. I'm just really proud of him, what he's achieved on and off the field. He's a pretty good Crusader, isn't he?"

 

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