Barnes-storming show ends Wallaby doubts - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Barnes-storming show ends Wallaby doubts

By Jim Morton 27/04/2009 03:22:40 PM Comments (0)

Wallabies great Tim Horan believes Berrick Barnes' five-eighth masterclass in the Auckland wet proved Australia would survive without superstar Matt Giteau.

Horan praised Barnes as an equally gifted and effective playmaker as Giteau in the wake of his near-perfect game at No.10 in Queensland's 31-24 Super 14 upset of the Blues.

Moved from inside centre to five-eighth for the match, the Reds vice-captain displayed expert tactical nous, top-shelf passing and kicking skills, and stout defence in highly challenging conditions.

The question of who is the Wallabies' second-choice No.10 behind Giteau has concerned pundits all year, with young challengers Kurtley Beale, Quade Cooper and Cristian Lealiifano spluttering along in the role at Super 14 level.

But two-time World Cup winner Horan said Barnes on Saturday confirmed he could handle the sole playmaking duties for Australia if injury should befall Giteau.

"You're not going to lose anything at all," said the 80-Test inside centre. "Matt Giteau is No.1, just, but I think both he and Barnes are on a par.

"They're equally the best No.10s in the country and you could play either with 10 or 12 on their backs."

Whiz-kid James O'Connor's rise playing outside Giteau at the Western Force has also put the 18-year-old into calculations, but he's seen more as a fullback or inside centre at international level.

Horan was not surprised by Barnes' near-flawless display against the star-studded Blues in the rain and wind.

"I think even before the Blues game Berrick was the Wallabies second choice No.10, and that's not taking anything away from Quade Cooper," Horan said. "If Giteau was injured, Robbie Deans would have no reservations in playing Barnes there at five-eighth.

"He started his Test football there (at the 2007 World Cup) with Giteau at 12 and they interchange a lot."

Coach Deans has traditionally selected two playmakers in his backline and preferred Barnes at No.12 for much of his first year in charge in 2008 with Giteau at 10, a partnership that's expected to continue.

Barnes was given one start at five-eighth, against Italy on the spring tour, but lasted just 13 minutes after sustaining a season-ending knee injury.

Queensland coach Phil Mooney has kept his playmaking options open for the rest of the season but Barnes is expected to continue pulling the strings at first-receiver against the Brumbies on Saturday night, even if he again wears the No.12 jersey.

Meantime, Horan urged Reds duo Hugh McMeniman and Digby Ioane to set their minds on becoming regular Test starters heading towards the 2011 World Cup rather than chasing lucrative overseas contracts.

The Australian Rugby Union are battling to keep them as they can earn more overseas but Horan seriously doubts reports McMeniman has been offered an exorbitant $1.6 million, two-year French contract.

"You'd sign that offer straight away, so I don't know how much truth is in that," said the former Test and Queensland captain.

"But there's a price and then there's a Wallabies jersey.

"He's 25 and he's not a regular starting Wallaby yet."

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