All Blacks superstar Beauden Barrett feels the Wallabies are actually more threatening without sacked fullback Israel Folau in their line-up for Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup clash in Perth.
The Wallabies and New Zealand will square off for the first time since the Folau scandal exploded in April and his contract was torn up.
Folau owned the No.15 jersey during his 62 Tests but the deeply religious player had his contract terminated over repeated anti-gay comments he made on social media.
Despite Folau becoming Super Rugby’s highest tryscorer this year and his place as equal third on the all-time Wallabies try-scoring list, Barrett felt his replacement Kurtley Beale offered the Australians more X-factor.
Veteran Beale sparked the Wallabies’ attack when he came off the bench in their loss to the Springboks and was among their best in the recent win over Argentina.
Without Folau the Wallabies were less of an aerial threat but Barrett said they had more options.
“We’re all aware of Israel Folau’s capabilities and the strength he has from a physical point of view,” Barrett said.
“Kurtley’s a very exciting player and he’s so unpredictable I think they certainly don’t lose anything by having him there, if anything it’s probably more threatening.”
Barrett will also wear the No.15 at Optus Stadium, with the All Blacks sticking with their twin playmaker attack, with Richie Mo’unga at five-eighth.
The experiment was trialled with mixed success against South Africa two weeks ago but New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said there was now “improved clarity of roles”.
Barrett felt they would be better in their second hit-out.
“I think we’ve learned a lot from one having one game under our belts,” Barrett said.
“At times we were perhaps in each other’s pockets.
“Tactically and structurally, if we can be aligned, it will work best for the team and we should see some good rewards from that.”