Instinctive, heads-up, and always backing themselves.
Beauden Barrett is the first New Zealand rugby player to join the Red Bull stable. He plays as if he has wings on his heels and joy in his heart, to paraphrase the great 1981 movie Chariots of Fire.
The 27-year-old is already one of rugby’s most decorated individuals, voted World Rugby Player of the Year in 2016 and 2017, while he was adjudged New Zealand Rugby player of the year in 2016. He also won a Super Rugby crown with the Hurricanes that same season.
Barrett is the only man to score a try in the finals of both the Rugby World Cup (2015) and Junior World Championship (2011). He is currently in third place on the all-time New Zealand international point record.
His 2012 Test debut against Ireland introduced a sparky young talent who took to international rugby as if to the manor born. Equally at home in the No 10 or 15 jerseys, he plays with a freedom that shouts he is not concerned with a loose forward breathing down his neck or what he should be doing in certain situations.
Some of his 2016 rugby was sublime but in 2018 he still showed a capacity to surprise, running in no less than four tries – a rare quartet by a No 10 – in the Eden Park Bledisloe Cup against Australia’s Wallabies. Just a year beforehand he had thrust a dagger through Wallaby hearts with the match-winning try in the Dunedin Bledisloe.
Barrett has done all this with strong competition in his position. He invariably rises to the big occasion, as he did in the 2015 Rugby World Cup decider. He is always learning with an ability to always bounce back, his phlegmatic personality ideally suited to the high pressure environment of Test match rugby.
It is the way that Barrett plays the game that sets him apart. He is only guided, not constrained, by structure, and is always on the look-out for an attacking opportunity, be it taking his marker on the outside or executing a pinpoint crosskick for one of his teammates.
It is worth noting he comes from New Zealand rugby royalty, his father Kevin a rugged Taranaki and Hurricanes forward at the dawn of pro rugby. Brothers Scott and Jordie have joined him in the New Zealand, while two other brothers (there are eight siblings in all) also play the game to a high level.
Barrett himself has rewritten the template of how a No 10 should play the game – instinctive, heads-up, always backing himself. The kinds of values Red Bull espouses.
Wherever he goes in the world of rugby, Barrett tends to be the human highlight reel.