All Black playmaker Beauden Barrett on Saturday revealed how long dormant soccer skills picked up in Ireland helped his scintillating display in New Zealand’s 38-13 demolition of Australia.
Barrett has faced calls to make way for in-form fly-half Richie Mo’unga, who helped the Crusaders to back-to-back Super Rugby titles this year.
But the two-time World Rugby player of the year answered his critics with a superb second half performance as New Zealand ran over the Wallabies in the first Bledisloe Cup Test in Sydney.
His tactical nous helped the All Blacks score six tries to one against the Wallabies and make them overwhelming favourites to retain the Bledisloe for a 16th straight year.
Barrett scored one try of his own, when he chased a kick to break through the defence, then toe-poked the ball twice before grounding the five-pointer.
“I felt someone was on me so I knew if I tried to pick it up I’d be tackled so instead I just backed myself and toed it a couple times,” he said.
Barrett’s father Kevin managed a farm in County Meath when he was a child and he said the skills picked up during that time came back to him.
“When I lived in Ireland back in the day, I was only nine or 10 at the time, but I actually wanted to play for Real Madrid back them, until I came back to New Zealand and realised I was a footy (rugby) boy,” he said.
He was unfazed by recent criticism, saying he preferred to concentrate on his game.
“The only pressure I feel is my own,” he said.
“I just work on my game and have my own standards. I was happy to get 80 minutes under my belt, I was knackered out there, so I’m hopefully better for it.”
Barrett acknowledged the All Blacks’ first-half display was not perfect but said the New Zealanders were keen to make an impression against the fired-up Australians.
“We were probably a bit excited, trying to force an offload here or there, or a pass, instead of holding onto the 50-50 ball and just seeing if we could build pressure,” he said.
New Zealand meet Australia again next week at Auckland’s Eden Park.