Lions tour: Jordie Barrett and Ngani Laumape will deliver on big stage, says Sean Fitzpatrick
It may be a revamped, injury-stricken backline, but All Blacks fans should have complete faith in their new additions to get the job done against the British and Irish Lions in their series decider, according to Sean Fitzpatrick.
The former All Blacks captain spoke of the confidence he had in the new starting duo, Jordie Barrett and Ngani Laumape, to step up to the occasion and shine under the brightest spotlights outside of a World Cup, reserving particular praise for the former.
"I think Jordie Barrett is one of the hottest properties in world rugby, and he has been outstanding in Super Rugby," Fitzpatrick told Brendon Telfer on Radio LIVE's Saturday Sport.
"Last week for the Hurricanes against the Lions he took a little while to get into the game, but once he did he had the maturity of a 40 or 50 Test All Black."
The 92-Test international also cited Laumape's encouraging performance when he was called upon early in the second Test, a high pressure situation he believed he dealt with expertly, while reiterating the experience and hunger Julian Savea's return will add to the side.
"They put their money behind Laumape last week and he came on and actually delivered, he did the job last week.
"Think of the security of bringing Savea back and imagine how fired up he's going to be?"
The All Blacks need to return to their physical approach at the breakdown, running the narrow channels near the ruck as they did in the first Test with great effect, a tactic they got away from in Wellington, said Fitzpatrick.
The host's attack was somewhat limited after the Williams red card and inclement weather, and it's an area he thinks the All Blacks should be able to rectify relatively simply with the return of Jerome Kaino.
The blindside enforcer was the player who saw the bench much earlier than he anticipated last after the All Black brass opted to remove a forward rather than a back to reshuffle after 'that' red card, and Fitzpatricks think he'll be primed and ready to be unleashed.
"It really told that pressure at the breakdown. I'd imagine Kaino is chomping at the bit to get out of the cage.
"I think we got a bit gun shy in Wellington…. I thought the All Blacks, even with 14 men, still should’ve closed that game out.
Despite the frailties of last weekend New Zealand fans should remain confident their side has what it takes to bounce back, he added, saying the general vibe of confidence purveying rugby circles is far removed from the nerves of 2011's World Cup final.
"Everyone that I'm around here is quite comfortable, they know we have a hugely experienced team.
"Sure we have a couple of young kids but we have a captain playing his 100th test, multiple world cup winners.
"I'm looking forward to a great game."