All Blacks first-five Beauden Barrett is preparing for a pair of significant firsts when the Blues and Hurricanes meet in the opening round of Super Rugby Aotearoa this weekend.
As well as being his debut for the Blues, Sunday’s match in Auckland would be his first against his former club.
Of everything Barrett pondered during the Covid-19 lockdown, it was a moment which occupied more of his time than most.
Speaking to media on Tuesday, he said he knew the game would be a unique experience.
“There’s a lot of familiar faces in that team that I know very well.
“It’s a game that I’ve played a few times in my head already and at the moment I’m just enjoying each day.
After 125 matches for the Canes, Barrett would run out in blue – not yellow – for the first time at Eden Park.
He was fully prepared for plenty of feedback about his move north
from those he played alongside during his nine seasons in the capital.
“Undoubtebly there’ll be some cheeky comments. There’ll be all sorts [being said] out there.
“Definitely from Colesy, in particular, and it wouldn’t be TJ (Perenara) without a few cheeky comments.”
Similar may come from those dressed in yellow in the crowd.
There should be plenty there, with 20,000 tickets already sold and
Blues CEO Andrew Hore making a bold projection for Sunday’s crowd
“We’re looking in excess of 35,000 which will be an amazing result.
“It will make for a fantastic atmosphere and a massive lift for the players.”
Barrett said he was excited by the prospect of his first match in eight months being played in front of 35,000 fans.
“If we get that number on Sunday, that’s fantastic.
“It’s even better that we’re playing afternoon rugby, I think the product should be better for it.
“Let’s hope the lungs hang in there and the game is a competitive one.”
If his efforts a few weeks ago were anything to go by, Barrett’s lungs should be fine.
His record-breaking run in the renowned ‘Bronco’ fitness test had him in the headlines all around the world.
Barrett said that’s the main reason he’s happy the limelight was well
and truly stolen last week with the Blues signing of the man he
succeeded in the All Blacks number 10 jersey, Dan Carter.
“I was sick of hearing about that bronco.
“But obviously the return of DC, it’s huge. It’s so good for the game
of rugby and at his age to still play in this competitive competition,
it’s something we can all aim and strive for.
“I haven’t told them that we’ve got a young first five in our team that’s half his age.”
What kind of an impact Barrett can make on his Blues debut was hard
to predict, given he last played in the All Blacks victory over Wales in
the third-place playoff at last year’s World Cup.
The two-time world player of the year said he was trying hard not to
expect too much from himself after eight months without a match.
“I’d like it to be free flowing but I know that it’s probably not realistic.
“I’ve very high standards but I know that it may take [more than] the
first game to get up to those standards but that doesn’t mean that I
won’t be trying my best and doing my best for the team.”
Nine seasons at the Hurricanes, but there’ll be no favours from Beauden Barrett for his old team on Sunday.