MacDonald settles Blues' Barrett conundrum - for the time being

FILE PHOTO: Italy v New Zealand
FILE PHOTO: Italy v New Zealand

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - All of the second guessing about where Beauden Barrett would play for the Auckland Blues ended on Friday, two days ahead of their opening Super Rugby Aotearoa clash with the Wellington Hurricanes, with Barrett placed as fullback - for now.

"We're mindful that Beaudy is an outstanding first five (flyhalf)," Blues coach Leon MacDonald told reporters on Friday. "That's not lost on us.

"But he's also a world-class fullback as well and we need that hole filled."

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Barrett will make his debut for the Blues against his former team on Sunday at Eden Park as professional rugby makes its return following the COVID-19 shutdown.

He had been signed by the Blues as a flyhalf, a position where he spent nine seasons with the Hurricanes and from which he won two World Player of the Year awards.

The 29-year-old, however, spent much of last season as fullback for the All Blacks as then coach Steve Hansen used two playmakers in his team with Richie Mo'unga playing in the pivotal number 10 jersey.

With Otere Black playing superbly at flyhalf for the Blues before the shutdown and all-time All Blacks great Dan Carter also signing with the team, there had been speculation as to where Barrett might play on the field.

A foot injury to Stephen Perofeta, however, allowed MacDonald to slot Barrett in at fullback, giving him time to adjust to his new team, the game, and the occasion.

"At some point he will be in the front line, but right now this is the best fit for our team, the situation, where he's at in terms of his integration back into rugby and the fact it's his first game for the Blues," MacDonald said.

"Then, in time, we'll probably see him move forward."

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

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