Rugby Championship: Goal kicking to settle Beauden Barrett v Richie Mo'unga debate, says Sir John Kirwan

Goal kicking could be the decisive factor in deciding if Beauden Barrett or Richie Mo'unga has first rights on the All Blacks' No.10 jersey, says Sir John Kirwan.

With Mo'unga, 27, staying in New Zealand for this year's Rugby Championship for the birth of his child, Barrett finds himself as the only specialist first-five currently in Ian Foster's All Blacks squad.

As a result, Barrett has had no competition for the All Blacks' No.10 jersey outside of utility Damian McKenzie, and put in his best performance of 2021 in the 39-0 victory over Argentina last weekend.

The closure of the trans-Tasman bubble means that Mo'unga begins his stint in managed isolation in Australia on Tuesday, which should see him available for the All Blacks' final Rugby Championship match, facing South Africa on the Gold Coast on October 2.

And with the All Blacks to head to the northern hemisphere for their end of year tour after that, Foster will have a healthy conundrum as to who he wants as his first-choice first-five going forward.

However, the only blot on Barrett's copy book so far has been his form with the boot. The 30-year-old was far from his best in the 38-21 victory over Australia in Perth, missing three kicks, and missed another in Sunday's win over Argentina.

Speaking on Sky Sport's The Breakdown, former All Blacks winger Sir John Kirwan outlines whoever's better from the kicking tee could be the determining factor in deciding which of Barrett or Mo'unga gets the nod.

"The interesting thing for me about Beauden Barrett, [is] will this selection come down to kicking? Is that his only worry at the moment," Sir John says.

"When you talk about Mo'unga, he's x-factor, but so is Barrett. They're very different styles of play, but they both have the ability to change a game.

"That seeing a gap and just accelerating through it, which is a lot harder than it looks, because those gaps close pretty quick, and then that out-the-back hand.

"Mo'unga does the stepping stuff, so I think Beauden will be out kicking as much as he can, because that's what it will come down to when Mo'unga does turn up."

Another former All Black, Mils Muliaina, urges patience with Barrett, who's slowly returning to his best after skipping Super Rugby in 2021 for a stint in Japan's Top League.

Sunday's performance against Argentina showed that Barrett is slowly but surely returning to the form that saw him crowned as back-to-back World Rugby player of the year in 2017 and 2018.

In particular, Barrett's try assist for Luke Jacobson - where he broke the Argentina line, before finding his support man with an out-the-back flick pass to score - showed that there's still plenty to come at test level.

"It's just a continuation of him coming back into the environment, he's still a little bit tight and sore," says Muliaina.

"You've got to realise how big a step that is. Coming from Japan, and then getting yourself into the All Black environment, finding his feet, getting used to the intensity of not just the trainings, but also the match, getting up to that mental state when you're preparing week in, week out.

"When you're looking from Beauden Barrett's point of view he's just starting to get into the flow of things in terms of his game. But that try he set up, that magical pass is just out and out class."

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