5. Berrick Barnes
5th choice fly-half, 2nd or 3rd option at 12.
We all know what he brings. Rock solid defence, average passing game, the ability to make a break or set something up and then butcher it (basketball pass into Smith’s face/ignoring all the ball runners around him and going alone etc, slide through a gap and then butcher the pass). His kicking game is poor to average.
This may raise some ire, but 2-3 good kicks in 10, is NOT a good kicking game. If his good kicks were the ONLY kicks, he’d be good, but they aren’t. For the sheer volume of kicking he does, I would rate well over half of it to be totally ineffective, and actually detrimental to his team, for two reasons. He either kicks at the wrong time (wasting good running opportunities), OR he executes poorly, and gifts possession to the opposition, which more often than not is a delighted Israel Dagg.
He is also poor as a running fly-half, because when he is under pressure, he falls deeper and deeper into the pocket and strangles the back-line. Cooper may get stick for taking poor options under pressure, but at least he still takes them, and he takes them flat and on the advantage line which can turn even a poor option into a good option if the receiver is aggressive and committed. You cant do that from 15 metres behind the advantage line, because the defence has plenty of time to read the play and react to it.
His passing skills are not poor, as evidenced by his long floater to put Dennis through the gap last year against Wales, but passes like that are a small percentage of what is delivered on field. Barnes may be very experienced and have a great track record at beating Wales, but he’s an extremely conservative option and we will not be able to threaten with ball in hand if he plays 10.