With Ireland’s World Cup hopes having been dashed last weekend, local rugby fans will now be keeping a close eye on how New Zealand’s Beauden Barrett fares in the remainder of the competition.
Beauden has links to the area in that his father Kevin 'Smiley’ Barrett played for Athlone club Buccaneers in the 2000/01 season.
As a child, Barrett — along with his brothers Kane and Scott — played underage Gaelic football with Meath club St Brigid’s (Ballinacree).
Beauden’s father and mother — Kevin and Robyn - moved to Ballinacree in Autumn 1999 where they were managing a dairy farm and Kevin was playing with Buccaneers in Athlone.
In New Zealand's 62-13 rout of France in the quarter-finals, Barrett was brought on at half-time, slotting in at full-back, though he is better known as an out-half. The presence of the remarkable Dan Carter has limited Barrett’s opportunities in the pivotal No. 10 position. However, in a poll by the New Zealand Herald earlier this summer, Barrett was the preferred public choice at out-half for the Kiwis at this year’s World Cup.
Barrett was also introduced as a substitute in New Zealand’s 26-16 win over Argentina when they met in the Pool stages.
The All Blacks face South Africa in the World Cup semi-finals at Twickenham tomorrow (Saturday, kick-off 4pm) and though Barrett is not included in the starting XV, he is in the match-day squad and is likely to see action at some stage.
Barrett actually won his first New Zealand cap against Ireland, coming on as substitute and scoring nine points when the All Blacks trounced the Irish 60-0 in 2012.
In the other World Cup semi-final, Argentina (Ireland’s conquerors last weekend) face Australia on Sunday (4pm).