CAPE TOWN – The All Blacks will look to the past in their bid to secure a third successive World Cup title, and the primary talking point when the squad arrived in Japan was Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’unga’s dual attacking role at fullback and flyhalf.
It is the attacking formula that won New Zealand the Under-20 World Cup in Italy in 2011, when Barrett started at No 15 and Gareth Anscombe started at 10. Anscombe would also take the goalkicking duties in the 33-22 win against England in the final. England on the day also played with George Ford at flyhalf and Owen Farrell at inside centre.
Anscombe would leave New Zealand and play for Wales at flyhalf and fullback. Injury has ruled him out of the World Cup.
The Mo’unga and Barrett experiment started against the Springboks in Wellington this year in the 16-all draw and it produced a mixed bag. All Black coach Steve Hansen and his assistant Ian Foster continued to play the duo against Australia in the two Bledisloe Cup matches, with the duo finally producing a match-winning performance in the 36-0 result against the Wallabies in Auckland.
Mo’unga was injured in the latter stages of the Auckland win and missed the one-off Test against Tonga in Hamilton. In his absence, Barrett played the first 40 minutes at flyhalf and did the goalkicking, and Ben Smith played at fullback.
Tonga didn’t offer much resistance, but Smith looked a whole lot better at fullback and Barrett had greater impact at flyhalf.