Jordie Barrett was undoubtedly one of the most consistent performers of the 2021 season his French apparition notwithstanding. His thunderous boot provided a sense of opportunity from 60m out, and his strong, tall, Taranaki grass-fed frame could provide punch from the backfield. However, it is Jordie Barrett's decision-making that ultimately let him down in the French finale and is responsible for the sour finish to his 2021 season. A responsibility that would be alleviated from him if he were to make a switch to the 12 jersey. Positional switches of key players have a history of increasing heart attack rates in Aotearoa, but Jordie Barrett switching to the 12 jersey should frighten no one except opposition defences.
Jordie played 12 at NZ under 20s level and presents an interesting wild card selection. His physicality would be a more regular threat at the gain line, something neither David Havili nor Anton Leinhert Brown possess in the same way. He wouldn't be required to orchestrate a counter-attack from the back, instead, he would be asked to punch up strongly, and distribute effectively to the wider channels, skills he already possesses without the added tactical kicking or decision-making responsibilities. . An added bonus is that it frees up the 15 jersey for Damian McKenzie to occupy (even though he has indicated he only has eyes for the 10 jersey), someone who presents a far more dangerous counterattack threat; it means that Rieko Ioane or Anton Lienhert Brown can gain some certainty about the gameplay of the person inside them, and pleasingly from a narrative perspective we might even get the chance to see two Barrett Brothers in the 10 and 12 jersey together.
Jordie making a positional switch into the 12 jersey simplifies his game while increasing his impact. His height, strength, and power could be brought to bear more regularly on the opposition defenses, bending the line for the strike power outside him to be unleashed against. Players play much better when their job is simple, early in the season Jordie’s game was simple, he was to defuse the high ball that the South Africans would bombard them with, and provide an assured kicking option from up to 60m out. The pressure of a pack going backwards and relative strangers lining up from 10 to 14 in the final game of the season showed the areas of deficiency in Jordie’s game. No one would argue that Jordie isn’t a great fullback, he has all but encased himself in that 15 jersey. What he can offer to the team by vacating the 15 jersey and earning the 12 jersey is far greater than what he can offer by himself at the back. Damian McKenzie provides a diminutive maestro dynamic that none in World Rugby possess. Given regular opportunities, McKenzie could carve a niche in International rugby akin to a Shane Williams. Possessing a rapid acceleration and nose for gaps that a 1.96m Taranaki lad cannot squeeze through. The margins between McKenzie and Barrett are razor-thin and a fair enough argument could be made for either, however, Barrett in a 12 All blacks jersey shores up the backline with a physicality that we all thought set sail with Ngani Laumape.
With Barrett at 12, the 13 jersey can get some consistency applied to it with Rieko Ioane providing express pace, or ALB offering footwork at the gain line. Will Jordan & Sevu Reece can provide quality creation and finishing respectively and at 15 Damian McKenzie can unlock his attacking prowess and fleet-footed fervor. It is a fantastical idea and one that almost certainly will not go down well with the continually dwindling paying public, but it would represent a shift in the attitude of our coaching staff towards providing an assured backline with a strong diversity in the attacking arsenal with a real genuine physical punch. Now, who plays at 10, that's a whole other discussion.