Barnes stakes claim for Wallabies start

(Rugby News Service) Saturday 24 September 2011
Barnes stakes claim for Wallabies start
Berrick Barnes impressed in his comeback match for the Wallabies

WELLINGTON, 24 Sept. - Berrick Barnes may have played his way back into Australia's starting line-up with an assured 40-minute performance at fly half in their 67-5 Pool C victory over USA at Wellington Regional Stadium on Friday.

The 25-year-old, who sat out much of the season recuperating from "footballer's migraine", which produces dizziness and head pain, came on when Quade Cooper was moved to full back to cover for the injured Kurtley Beale.

Barnes took over the kicking duties, landing four from five after Cooper missed three of his five attempts, and impressed with the way he ran the backline and controlled the play.

It was his first international since he turned out at inside centre in Australia's 59-16 demolition of France last November and only his eighth match since he resumed playing.

Coach Robbie Deans said Barnes' performance was one real positive to emerge from the USA match.

Midfield injuries 

Deans hinted the cheekbone fracture suffered by inside centre Rob Horne and a shoulder knock to his replacement Pat McCabe had opened the way for Barnes to start at number 12.

"That's now a choice that we have and when you look at some of the injuries we've picked up through the midfield that's a possibility," he said.

"Berrick hadn't played at that level for a long time, so in the back of his mind there would have been some demons, but he did well."

Asked if Barnes could now be considered the back-up fly half to Cooper, Deans replied: "That's probably fair. Obviously it depends on any given 22, but if Berrick's involved then absolutely."

Barnes admitted wondering at times whether he would ever return to the game as he followed club side New South Wales Waratahs' Super Rugby campaign from the sidelines.

"I had some serious doubts, he said. "But I just said to myself, 'look I'll take a break, I'll come back again when I feel right'.

"At the end (of Super Rugby) the World Cup was the last thing on my mind and I'm pretty rapt to be here."

RNS pr/gy/tc/sg