Henry Rounce: Jordie Barrett risks becoming 'spork' of All Blacks backline

You'd be hard pressed to find a 'spork' in John Plumtree's cutlery draw.

The hybrid utensil has apparently been around since 1874, after eccentric American inventor Samuel W Francis filed a patent for the spoon-fork combination.

In fact, Francis didn't stop there, also creating a sharpened edge that could be used as a knife and producing a three-in-one creation that lives on more than a century later.

Which brings us to the rugby equivalent - Hurricanes utility Jordie Barrett.

Barrett has filled almost every position in the backline this season, playing second-five, centre, wing and his preferred role of fullback.

He's been shifted so many times in Plumtree's game of musical chairs that you'd forgive him for double-checking the number on his back every time he runs onto the field.

His Jack-of-all-trades approach hasn't produced the finished product he's been hoping for.

Aside from a two-try effort against the Chiefs last weekend, the 22-year old's struggled, resembling a carpenter trying to fix a leak with a circular saw or a plumber attempting to fashion a benchtop with pipe cutters.

Barrett’s quickly discovered the problem of being versatile. He's being shunted around wherever he fits, like the youngest child getting dumped in the spare room or the garage or the lounge every time a relative comes to stay.

Rugby's obsession with multiple positions hasn't helped. Coaches thrive on converting locks to cover six, fullbacks who can play wing and first-fives that can shift to fullback.

It's becoming an issue for Barrett. For all of his tantalising talents, he hasn't been able to nail down a position.

In one of the biggest years in his career, he needs to find his spot - wherever it is - and make sure Plumtree has no option, but to keep him there.

The Hurricanes coach has enjoyed experimenting with Barrett, even trying to convert him into another Ben Smith earlier this year, but there hasn't been a 'eureka' moment and Barrett's suffered.

While All Blacks coach Steve Hansen will almost certainly include him in his World Cup squad, the playmaker hasn't made himself a must-pick.

Barrett's versatility means he's been loosely talked about as cover for the All Blacks at first-five, with the team at sixes and sevens in their search for a third number 10. He's wisely ruled himself out of the weak race - the last thing the New Plymouth man needs is another string to his jerky bow.  

It's easy to forget Barrett's whistle-stop rise in New Zealand rugby. In 2017, he started at fullback against the British & Irish Lions in a home-series decider.

There is no rush for him to secure one position for the rest of his career, but wearing one jersey for a sustained period of time is smarter than flicking through the clothing rack and trying on something new every week.

After his best performance of the season, albeit helped by some disinterested Chiefs defence, Barrett's got another start at the back against the Melbourne Rebels in Wellington on Saturday.

It's a rare chance for him to find some consistency - with a position and with his own form.

Barrett's plight is reminiscent of former All Black Isaia Toeava, who had his DNA on virtually every position in the backline.

The curse of the utility is something Barrett needs to work hard to avoid.

As Samuel W Francis may have discovered, the problem with the spork is that the knife doesn't quite slice a sausage, the spoon can't collect your cornflakes that well and the fork isn't very effective at stabbing your roast potatoes.

It's up to Barrett to pick his own utensil and give himself the best chance to regularly dine out at the Cake Tin.

Henry Rounce is a Newshub sports reporter.

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