Refusing to fall for the All Blacks’ “mind games”, Wallabies five-eighth Bernard Foley has no doubt he will be opposing Beauden Barrett in Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup opener in Sydney.
Barrett’s starting spot has come into question, with calls for Crusaders star Richie Mo’unga to be handed the All Blacks No.10 jumper after guiding his side to back-to-back Super Rugby titles.
But Foley is having none of it, believing it’s crazy to suggest New Zealand’s 2016 and 2017 world player of the year won’t be calling the shots once again.
“I can’t see why there’d be any different. He’s been a stalwart there for a few years,” he said.
“He’s world player of the year at the moment, isn’t he? I think it’s more internal mind games.
“We saw it a couple of years ago in 2015 when we had the same discussion with Dan Carter and Beauden Barrett and I think Dan Carter won player of the year that year.”
Assuming coach Steve Hansen sticks with Barrett when he reveals his team on Thursday morning, Foley says the electric playmaker must be shut down early or the Wallabies face a third straight first-half massacre at ANZ Stadium.
Barrett was unstoppable in the first 40 minutes in the series openers in 2016 and 2017, setting up tries at will or scoring himself to engineer All Black halftime leads of 32-3 and 40-6 respectively.
“He’s a great option taker but his speed is an extra dimension that probably allows him to get out of trouble or to chance his hand a bit because he knows he can rely on his pace,” Foley said.
“The other thing too, he’s got so much assuredness around him. (Inside centre) Ryan Crotty is such a stalwart and probably a calming affect on that backline, as well as Aaron Smith, who shoulders a lot of the direction and the communicating in that side.”
Foley said the Wallabies would pay the price again if they gave Barrett any time or space.
“He always has that attacking mindset. I don’t think you could say he’s a conservative 10,” he said.
“He’s one who will chance his hand and someone you have to try and shut down earlier because you’re probably going to struggle later.”