NAPIER, New Zealand, Sept 4 (Reuters) - For a fleeting moment Beauden Barrett thought his life as an All Blacks player would be consigned to cameo appearances off the bench.
Coach Steve Hansen had just told a room full of reporters during the June series against England that he felt Aaron Cruden better suited to starting test matches while Barrett was more effective in reserve.
“I did wonder that,” Barrett told reporters on Thursday after being given his first start at flyhalf for the Rugby Championship clash against Argentina.
”I guess it’s a patience game.
“I‘m not going to kick up too much of a fuss. I‘m happy to be in the team. An opportunity to start has arisen and I’d like to make this a habit, too.”
Having made his test debut against Ireland in 2012, the fleet-footed Barrett was seen as the third-choice flyhalf behind Dan Carter and Cruden but boasting additional value as a capable fullback and, at a pinch with his pace, on the wing.
In his 16 test appearances before this year, he started just two, both at fullback.
A superb Super Rugby season for the Wellington Hurricanes this year, however, saw most in New Zealand back him for a starting role at flyhalf against England.
Carter, after all, was unavailable due to his six-month sabbatical and Cruden was looking rusty after only recently returning from a broken thumb.
Hansen instead went with Waikato Chiefs pivot Cruden for the first two tests and with the series sewn up following 20-15 and 28-27 victories, many expected Barrett to get his opportunity to start in the dead rubber third test.
A broken thumb to centre Conrad Smith, however, dashed those plans and Cruden was named to start again, with Hansen not keen on giving starts to both Barrett and rookie centre Malakai Fekitoa in Hamilton, according to local media reports.
Cruden was then outstanding behind a superb pack as the All Blacks demolished England in the first half before securing a 36-13 victory at Waikato Stadium.
Barrett played off the bench for the first two Rugby Championship clashes against Australia, with a yellow card for a professional foul in his first few minutes blighting his appearance in the 12-12 draw in Sydney.
A chest injury to Cruden in the 51-20 victory in the return match at Eden Park, that Hansen feared could be exacerbated against the Pumas, prompted the coach to finally give Barrett the thumbs-up for the McLean Park clash.
“Very stoked. It’s an opportunity I have been waiting for for a long time ... I had a bit of a grin, that was quite hard to get rid of,” said Barrett.
”I think it has been worth the wait. I have learned a lot just being around camp and off the bench and just being 20 minutes, there are times when I have come on for 40 minutes-plus.
”To finally get a start will be special and something I have aimed for since I first put on the black jersey.
“I just want to make sure it’s not my last. I’ve got a good opportunity to show them why I could be starting going forward.”
Editing by Ian Ransom