Dan Carter has today given All Blacks playmakers Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett some valuable advice about how to navigate their way around the unique demands of World Cups less than six weeks out from the tournament start in Japan.
It was a visit planned some time ago by assistant coach Ian Foster and it may turn out to be a timely one given the Bledisloe Cup hole the All Blacks now find themselves in after losing to Australia 47-26 in Perth last weekend and with the decider to come at Eden Park on Saturday.
A former All Blacks No 10, who played 112 tests and is New Zealand’s highest points scorer, Carter has been involved in many previous rescue missions, including in the 2015 Bledisloe Cup decider at Eden Park in 2015 when his side had to win to retain the old trophy and did so 41-13.
“That actually wasn’t in the plan when he came in but it might be helpful,” Foster said with a smile today.
“It was great to have him in.
“I was keen to get him in to chat to our playmakers; he’s got a lot of World Cup experience [and he was in] to talk to the likes of Beaudy and Richie about what it’s like to drive a team through a World Cup campaign where expectations are high.
“Who better to tell the story than him?”
It would surprise if Carter’s messages didn’t include the need for Mo’unga and Barrett, who started for the first time together in the drawn test against the Boks and continued at Optus Stadium last weekend, to keep backing themselves and trust their talent and preparation.
Coach Steve Hansen stressed the need to stay calm in the wake of Bledisloe I, which saw lock Scott Barrett dismissed for a high shoulder charge on Michael Hooper, for which he has been suspended for three weeks, and a lot of uncharacteristic mistakes from the All Blacks.
For those reasons it’s difficult to see Hansen and Foster losing their nerve and selecting Barrett back at No 10.
Foster called the experiment of playing the pair against the Boks a qualified success, and there were enough signs in Perth to suggest it’s a winning combination in waiting.
“If you look at a couple of variables, I think we’ve seen Richie grow from his first start, and I thought against South Africa he took a while to get into it and we saw signs near the end and I thought again, we saw signs [against Australia],” Foster said.
“In looking at how many times they’re touching the ball, it’s positive.
“We’re not dampening one player to increase the playmaking ability of the other player. We’re getting a good balance there.
“And from a Beaudy perspective – we talk about the two of them, but it’s a big success story that Beaudy can be one of the leading 10s in the world and go back and … in the last two tests I thought he was probably our best player on the park at 15.
“He’s actually made that transition really really well.
“It’s given us some good options.”
Uncapped Highlanders first-five Josh Ioane is back training with the All Blacks after suffering concussion symptoms but is highly unlikely to make his debut on Saturday.