New Zealand take on Wales at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on Saturday with no Dan Carter on the teamsheet, young gun Beauden Barrett entrusted to drive the All Blacks around the park.
Barrett has spent most of the last two weeks simulating English and Scottish attackers as he missed out on selection for the 24-16 victory over the latter behind Carter and Colin Slade, while he came on for Aaron Cruden for the last quarter in the 24-21 win at Twickenham.
But coach Steve Hansen has had no qualms about throwing the 23-year-old Hurricanes playmaker a chance for a rare start in a match-up in which Wales’ last victory came way back in 1953.
“We’ve got total belief in him though, otherwise we wouldn’t have put him in there,” Hansen said, adding that a fly-half’s role was simple.
“You want them to drive the side around the park,” the former Wales coach said.
“Your 10’s the main computer, he’s the man who has to absorb all the information that’s coming and then make the right decisions.
“He’ll touch most of the ball, so you want him making good decisions, be a good decision-maker.”
With Carter, Cruden and Slade in his squad, Hansen admitted to having a staggering strength in depth in a position New Zealanders call ‘first five-eighth’.
“We’re very fortunate to have four outstanding five-eighths (fly-halves), one of whom (Carter) has come back from injury and is a bit rusty.
“The other three have been great all year. Beauden’s making great progress.
“But what we need from any five-eighth is front-foot ball, so the contest will be won up front.”
Barrett said any pressure was dissipated by having other key players around him, notably Richie McCaw, who will skipper the All Blacks for a record 100th Test in his 137th cap.
“I’m really excited about the challenge ahead, hopefully a full Millennium Stadium against a great Welsh side,” said the 27-times capped Barrett.
“There’s always competition within the squad, we just train away trying to be better than each other. We all get along really well together.
“At training we’re butting heads and striving for that number one start. It’s an opportunity for me at the weekend to finish the year off well and have a good performance hopefully.”
Barrett added: “I haven’t played for a while. It’s my turn now. I’ve been selected so I’m really looking forward to it.
“It’s a great opportunity to put a stake in the ground. Obviously I can play other positions, but first-five is my preferred position.
“Out there, they trust my calls, my decisions, but there are also other decision-makers – Reado (No 8 Kieran Read) is out there and Conrad (Smith), we’re all on the same page, we’re all seeing different things so it’s about how quick we adapt and move on.”
Star winger Julian Savea was under no illusions about Barrett’s ability to call the shots.
“He’s very bossy: his way or the highway, so that’s good,” Savea said with a smile.