WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Twice World Player of the Year Beauden Barrett will play his first match at flyhalf in nearly a year when he starts for the Auckland Blues against the Waikato Chiefs at Eden Park on Sunday.
Barrett has been at fullback in his first season with Leon MacDonald’s Blues but has switched forward to replace Otere Black, who was provisionally named on the bench on Friday after suffering a neck injury in last week’s 29-27 loss to the Wellington Hurricanes in Super Rugby Aotearoa.
Barrett’s form at fullback has been under scrutiny following back-to-back losses for the Blues, whose title hopes would be in jeopardy with defeat to the Chiefs.
His return to the playmaking position where he made his name will be closely watched by Blues fans and All Blacks coach Ian Foster.
“I’d say he’s the best running 10 in the world, and probably the best we’ve ever seen as a running 10,” Blues attack coach Daniel Halangahu told local media on Friday.
Barrett trained at flyhalf during the week and his team mates had needed to adjust to his style.
“It’s certainly been a bit of a lesson for the guys just how flat and hard Beauden can play through that channel,” said Halangahu.
“He’s going to be flat and if he takes off he’s as fast as anyone out on the field. We’re all excited to see him out there.”
Barrett last played flyhalf when the All Blacks’ obliterated Tonga 92-7 in September but he was supplanted in his preferred position by Richie Mo’unga for the World Cup in Japan.
Dan Carter, the man Barrett succeeded as All Blacks flyhalf, has been rested for another week after suffering a calf strain at training last week as he waits his debut in New Zealand’s domestic competition.
Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Peter Rutherford