By Lee Stace
IT HAS become apparent after watching the Wallabies sweep Wales 3-0 that Berrick Barnes should wear the No 10 shirt when the international season awakens from its hibernation.
The Waratahs five-eighths took his chances superbly during June, playing a key hand in all three tests and was without a doubt the Wallabies’ player of the series.
His goalkicking radar was near-faultless, his general play assured and his collaboration with Will Genia operated to a pleasant tune.
But, crucially, he kept his composure and took the right options when Wales had the Wallabies under the knuckle.
Not even the arrival of his first son – which saw him arrive at Etihad Stadium for the second test hours before kickoff after he rushed back to Sydney to be at his wife’s side for the birth – could halt his momentum, with Barnes producing another career-enhancing performance.
If Wallabies coach Robbie Deans is fair dinkum, he will trust the 26-year-old with running the cutter in the shiny, new Rugby Championship when the tournament kicks off in August.
Some, particularly those domiciled in Queensland, might argue that Quade Cooper should be retained at flyhalf.
However, the fact of the matter is that while he is exceptional at Super Rugby level, as evidenced by his attacking wizardry during the Reds’ march to the title last season, he remains as flaky as puff pastry when running around on international grass.
Cooper melted badly when temperature was increased by a couple of degrees at the Rugby World Cup last year. Go back and look at the footage from the Wallabies’ efforts against Ireland, South Africa and New Zealand for proof. You will see that Cooper folded faster than laundry.
The New Zealand-born pivot still has a place in the Wallabies, though. It would be warming the bench, where his razzle-dazzle flair would be better suited to the final quarter of games, when defensive screens begin to tire and things become loose.
But for all other occasions a cool head in needed and Berrick Barnes is the man to provide that.
He has shown in 41 tests that he can endure the pressure at the highest level and deserves his chance after compiling a compelling dossier of outings against Wales.
The question is: will he be given a shot?
With the series level, expect both teams to put it all on the line as they seek to win the deciding test in Sydney on Saturday night.