With Dan Carter having signed with the Blues for Super Rugby Aotearoa, Blues head coach Leon MacDonald has a selection headache on his hands, one he will be happy to have.
MacDonald will welcome Beauden Barrett to his side for the first time following the former Hurricanes' sabbatical after the Rugby World Cup and will have three-time World Player of the Year Dan Carter in the side.
Carter's arrival at the franchise comes after the side suffered an injury blow ahead of Super Rugby Aotearoa with fullback Stephan Perofeta ruled out through injury.
Perofeta was MacDonald's preferred fullback during the opening rounds of Super Rugby 2020 with the youngster starting all seven games for the side, four of which at fullback and the other three at flyhalf.
We take a look a three possible ways MacDonald could fit his former Crusaders teammate Dan Carter and new signing Beauden Barrett in the same backline.
The 🐐 is back!!!— Ultimate Rugby (@ultimaterugby) June 4, 2020
Who is excited for Super Rugby Aotearoa 🙋♂️ pic.twitter.com/td2KBUtgVb
The Spencer-Carter Fix
When Carter first broke into the All Blacks' squad back in 2003, a certain Carlos Spencer was occupying the 10 jersey.
In a move to get both players in the starting XV, then head coach John Mitchell pushed Carter into the #12 jersey. Carter had featured in that position with the Crusaders with Andrew Mehrtens coming to the end of his Super Rugby career.
Carter has gone on to play inside centre throughout his playing career for a number of sides including the All Blacks. Near the end of his Racing 92 tenure, Carter and Pat Lambie worked as a dual playmakers in the 10 and 12 jersey helping the side reach the Champions Cup Final. While he also shifted into the role on occasion with Hayden Parker at Kobe Steelers in Japan.
Deploying Carter at inside centre would still give Barrett plenty of freedom on attack with Carter still a handy defender in the first line of defence. The move could bring an end to the Rieko Ioane centre experiment but could mean that Joe Marchant is used on the wing too.
TJ Faiane has been superb for the Blues at inside and outside centre and could retain a starting role.
Potential line up 9-15: Sam Nock, Beauden Barrett, Rieko Ioane, Dan Carter, Joe Marchant/TJ Faiane, Mark Telea, Matt Duffie
The Beau'unga Fix
A controversial call from Steve Hansen in 2019 saw Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo'unga feature at fullback and flyhalf respective at the Rugby World Cup. MacDonald could deploy the same set up during Super Rugby Aotearoa with Carter slipping into the starting jersey and Barrett filling in at fullback.
This combination would not be too foreign for the pair as Barrett coming off the bench for Nehe Milner-Skudder during the Rugby World Cup in 2015 with Ben Smith moving to the wing and Carter at flyhalf.
Potential backline: Sam Nock, Dan Carter, Rieko Ioane, TJ Faiane, Joe Marchant, Mark Telea, Beauden Barrett
Dan Carter + Beauden Barrett 😳— Ultimate Rugby (@ultimaterugby) June 3, 2020
This is SOME backline 🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/Q70nTQekJW
A trio of playmakers
Otere Black's reaction to the news of Carter's arrival could well have been far different to that of everyone else's.
The 25-year-old was Barrett's understudy at the Hurricanes before he departed the side for more first team rugby. However, his debut season at the Blues was ended before it even started as he suffered a season long injury delaying his Blues debut until 2019.
Black got some luck in 2019 and remained fit to make 15 appearances for the Auckland-based side before Barrett signed for the side ahead of the 2020 season. The return to fitness of Stephan Perofeta meant Black started the season as the second choice flyhalf but managed to force his way into the starting XV for the final four games before the season was called off.
MacDonald could back Black to continue in the 10 jersey with the support of the two other playmakers in Carter and Barrett. The Blues boss did test the idea of three playmakers in one starting XV against the Bulls with Black at 10, Harry Plummer at 12 and Perofeta at 15.
He could have another crack at three playmakers with the following line up: Sam Nock, Otere Black, Rieko Ioane, Dan Carter, TJ Faiane/ Joe Marchant, Mark Telea, Beauden Barrett