Scott Robertson explains why he chose Scott Barrett as ABs Captain

Publish Date
Tuesday, 25 June 2024, 7:56AM

By Liam Napier

Scott Barrett left Scott Robertson hanging for a few weeks before eventually accepting the offer to assume the All Blacks captaincy.

“His initial reaction, you felt like he was going to say yes – but that’s his way; he takes a bit of time,” Robertson said.

Barrett is much more a deep thinker than he is spontaneous. He wanted time to consider the all-encompassing role, to consult former captains Richie McCaw and Kieran Read, and grasp the enormity of the responsibility.

“I’m not someone who makes quick decisions, unless it’s on the park,” Barrett said. “I was a bit taken aback being asked to lead the All Blacks. I want to give this job my all. It took a wee bit to get my head around what’s coming.

“There’s some huge challenges and I’m excited about it. It’s a huge honour. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity and excited to get to work.”

Barrett, the 30-year-old Crusaders skipper and world-class lock after 69 tests, was preferred over Ardie Savea, the reigning World Rugby player of the year, to lead the All Blacks for the next four years.

Savea has captained the All Blacks eight times – notably in the centenary test against the Springboks and last year’s World Cup final following Sam Cane’s red card dismissal – before spending the past six months on sabbatical in Japan.

Once Savea – a popular and widely respected senior figure within the All Blacks – returned home, Robertson spoke with him about the team’s leadership plans.

“We talked at length about his role over the next few years and what that looks like,” Robertson said. “We had a conversation around the captaincy and how we think we can get the best out of him as a player and also a leader.”

Barrett selected Savea and younger brother Jordie as his deputy leaders.

“Ardie, his on-field stuff speaks for itself as world player of the year,” Barrett said. “He’s the spine in the pack at No 8, with Jordie in the backline. Having those two across the park as well as your natural leaders helps you.”

Just as Ian Foster favoured established ties to Cane, Robertson’s long-standing relationship with Barrett, his Crusaders captain for four years, was the major, but not sole, factor in his anointment.

As Robertson explained: “His ability with game management and working with the refs. He’s highly regarded and respected. He’s the lineout caller and he brings in other leaders when required.

“He’s got a really good feel for the game to make the right calls at the right time. He’s won a lot of big games and big moments. He’s always risen to the occasion with the All Blacks and I know he’ll do it as a captain too.”

After riding the Foster-Cane rollercoaster that traversed the depths of the mid-season coaching changes during the dark struggles of 2022 to losing the World Cup final by one point 18 months later, it’s no surprise Barrett pondered whether he was ready to shoulder that burden.

As Cane discovered, the All Blacks captain must front the good, the bad, the ugly.

After listening to those familiar with such engulfing flames, Barrett steps forth with eyes wide open.

“Having played alongside Sam Cane over the past four years, naturally you observe how they lead,” Barrett said. “Having those convos with Richie and Kieran you get a gauge of what’s required. It’s not until you’re in the saddle you get a feel for the pressures.

“When it’s going well you enjoy it and it’s easy. When your individual performances aren’t going well that’s when the spotlight comes on you. It’s preparing for each game as best you can. If there’s injuries that are limiting your performance those are areas they’ve highlighted as challenges for them. It’s been good to hear that.”

Fishing, hunting and helping raise his 2-year-old son will be welcome escapes where possible. But in the heat of battle, Barrett can draw on lived adversity from this Super Rugby campaign.

“In a way, the blessing of the Crusaders season is it hasn’t been smooth sailing to say the least so there’s lessons out of that I’ll be taking forward.”

With the All Blacks to lead in the first test against England in Dunedin on July 6, Barrett declared he is over the nagging back injury that severely limited his involvement this year. Provided he recovers from his knee injury, Blues captain Patrick Tuipulotu will be favoured to partner Barrett in the second-row.

Alongside the ever-present challenge of attempting to manage and influence referees, Barrett acknowledged discipline would be a priority after collecting two costly red cards in his test career.

“I’ve had some great highlights and some lowlights with the red cards. That’s a technical thing within a game. It’s a contact sport that moves quickly but if your technique is out and coupled with frustration the margin for error is too small. That’s heightened as captain. You want to be leading from the front with your accuracy around the tackle and ruck.”

Quiet, astute, thoughtful, Barrett is sure to grow into the captaincy role through contrasting experiences.

Expectations on the All Blacks are always such, though, there will be no settling in period.

Test rugby ensures the spotlight shines brightest on those at the forefront.

“I love the game of rugby. I love this team. On the park I run the lineout and give direction there. I have a good awareness of when a team is riding low to potentially give a rev up or if we’re highly emotive and aroused to give a wee calming focus if that’s what’s needed in that moment.”

Barrett will hope to strike that balance as he confronts the pressure-cooker moments that await his leadership tenure.

This article was first published on and is republished here with permission

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