All Black Scott Barrett sought mental skills and tackle technique advice after high-shot ban

Fijian Drua players from Fijian Drua perform the cibi before their win over Moana Pasifika. PICTURE: STUFF SPORTS.

Crusaders captain Scott Barrett says he took advice from the All Blacks’ mental skills experts and worked on his tackling technique during a “long three weeks’’ ban.

Barrett – who will lead the Crusaders from blindside flanker against the Fijian Drua on Friday night – was suspended after a red card for high shot on Blues prop Alex Hodgman in mid-April.

The test lock had to cool his heels and miss the Crusaders’ 42-17 win over the Rebels in Melbourne, the 24-21 loss to the Waratahs in Sydney and the 53-15 romp over the Western Force in Perth before returning for the 37-26 win over the Brumbies in Canberra last weekend.

“To be honest, it was a long three weeks,’’ Barrett said. “I had to work of my own things out, with tackle technique and building confidence back up.

“Something like that you can internalise it, and over-analyse things, which naturally I can do.’’

He said All Blacks mental skills advisers Gilbert Enoka and Ceri Evans “reached out’’, so “I leant on them, naturally’’.

“They broke down the issue in itself and helped step out any processes that could help me from not falling into a foul play trap, or whatever might be in the future.’’

Barrett also did some technical work with Crusaders defence coach Tamati Ellison.

“Those things have helped me build my confidence back up to where it needs to be.’’

The 1.97m Barrett said he was “naturally nearly 2m high’’ so he has worked on “lowering my body height’’.

“The ball carrier’s going to be adjusting late, so it’s being able to pick up on those cues as a tackler, having your arms ready. It’s just little habits, like having my hands up at training all the time.’’

Barrett, who pleaded guilty and showed remorse, was initially banned for four weeks due to a prior similar offence, but the term was reduced by a week after he completed a coaching intervention course.

The 28-year-old last started a game at blindside flanker against the Chiefs last year, but he’s no stranger to the backrow. “This season once or twice, and late last year, I’d get called on by Razor to just slot in at 6, so I know what’s ahead and are excited at that.’’

He has also started six of his 48 tests on the blindside, most recently in the 2019 Rugby World Cup semifinal defeat to England.

Barrett said there was “not much’’ difference between the lock and blindside roles, apart from “around scrumtime.

“You’re in the engine room [at lock], when you’re at 6 you’re on the side so you have another gear. You still work the same, but when you were pushing in the scrums, your legs are definitely a lot heavier.’’
The skipper believes the Crusaders “grew some confidence’’ after the performances against the Force and the Brumbies.

“I think we’ve turned a corner from there, and we’re excited about this week.’’

Barrett said it was ”impressive to see Fijian Drua have a team’’ in Super Rugby and felt they were “only going to get stronger and stronger each week’’ after watching them “push the Highlanders to a narrow loss and holding teams for 60 minutes’’.

“Fijians are so passionate about rugby. Just on my street, down at the bottom, there’s a couple of Fijian boys who are playing out on the corner. They give the big wave as I drive by. Whether they are back home in Fiji or here, they all love rugby and share a similar passion to most Kiwi boys.’’

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