The Alpha Dogs: But who are the chasing pack?

Jim Kayes
Written by
Jim Kayes

Author short introduction. Three to five lines of brief description.

Picking the first two is simple and with the return of Damian McKenzie from Japan, the All Blacks again have three world class first fives. But NZRW editor Jim Kayes look at who comes next if there are injuries.

Beauden Barrett (L) is congratulated by New Zealand's fly-half Richie Mo'unga after scoring a try during the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup quarter-final match between New Zealand and Ireland at the Tokyo Stadium in Tokyo on October 19, 2019. (Photo by Odd Andersen / AFP) (Photo by ODD ANDERSEN/AFP via Getty Images)

It is a dream scenario for head coach Ian Foster as he looks ahead to next year’s World Cup in France.

Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’unga are set to duel the No10 jersey in a tussle even tighter than when Andrew Mehrtens has Carlos Spencer breathing down his neck.

But the good news for Foster is that they also offer a potential lethal one-two knockout combination if used effectively off the bench.

If Mo’unga starts, for instance, Barrett has shown he can be exceptional off the bench either at first five and fullback.

If the reverse happens, Mo’unga’s dancing feet could cause huge issues for tiring defences. And backing them both up will be a familiar face.Damian McKenzie has re-signed with New Zealand Rugby with the aim of playing at next year’s World Cup, after injury ruled him out of the 2019 tournament.

The 27-year-old has been in Japan but offers a huge amount having played 40 tests for the All Blacks, starting two at first five, 22 at fullback and coming off the bench in the other 16.

McKenzie won’t knock the top two out of their tussle to start, but he could cause welcome headaches for Foster as he looks at the composition of his bench.

“Beauden Barrett has mastered coming off the bench,” 2011 World Cup hero Stephen Donald says. “No one can do it like he does. He blitzes the opposition.”But Donald isn’t pegging Barrett to the role with Mo’unga the starter. He says Mo’unga could be just as effective as Barrett from the bench as his footwork and pace would be a nightmare for tired defences. The only difference is that Barrett has a lot more experience in the impact role.

Of his 101 tests, 36 came from the bench, especially early in his test career when Dan Carter was the starting first five.

Donald says every first five wants to start, wants to run the cutter from the outset -it’s the way they are built, how they operate.

It was a huge adjustment for him to play second fiddle to Carter in the All Blacks, made only slightly easier by knowing that Carter was clearly the best No10, not just in New Zealand, but the world.

“I always wanted to be the starter, but I also wanted to be in the All Blacks and I was much happier being the No2 All Blacks No10 then not being in the All Blacks.”With McKenzie’s return from Japan the All Blacks will go to France with that trio of Barrett, Mo’unga and McKenzie as their playmakers, but what if there are injuries?

Continue this story in our Jun/ July issue.

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Jim Kayes
Written by
Jim Kayes

Editor of NZRW magazine, Producer of the Breakdown and all round good guy

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