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Barnes seizes his chance to make case

Date

Greg Growden

On the up ... Berrick Barnes has regained his playing mojo.

On the up ... Berrick Barnes has regained his playing mojo. Photo: AFP

A YEAR ago, Berrick Barnes was pondering whether he had a future in the game. Several serious bouts of concussion had put his career on hold. Many expected him to retire.

Even just over a month ago, there were doubts whether Barnes would regain Wallabies status. Playing in an under-performing province does not help, but Barnes was fourth in the No.10 rankings, behind James O'Connor, Quade Cooper and Kurtley Beale. If he was to make the squad, it would probably be as a dogsbody.

In the end, it all revolves around taking your opportunities. O'Connor, Cooper and Beale were suddenly no longer available. Wallabies coach Robbie Deans had to call on Barnes.

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It wasn't instant harmony, as Barnes was one of the central figures in the Wallabies' diabolical loss to Scotland in Newcastle. But, three weeks on, it is all sunshine and light after enjoying two man-of-the-match awards in a row, winning a Test match with his boot on Saturday and, in the middle of it all, a madcap Melbourne-Sydney return trip for the birth of his first child, Archie.

What has been most rousing about this Test interlude is the rebirth, of sorts, of Barnes. After the Waratahs lost their sixth match in a row, Barnes was dejected and despairing, way down on confidence. Now he is buoyant, laughing, alive, delighted to see everyone again. There was plenty of boot slapping and high fives after Saturday's win at a ground where, with the Waratahs, he has experienced so much pain this season.

As for his coach, there have been many delights watching a player regain his Test footing.

''Berrick had some significant challenges last year, physical ones which, potentially, was threatening his career,'' Deans said. ''He's back now and, credit to the whole group because we structure our game to play to the strength of our people, and benefited from that, as the team have from his contribution.''

Still, the big question is whether Barnes will stay as Test five-eighth when the international season resumes at the end of August. The cavalry is coming. Beale is back, and O'Connor and Cooper will play in the final rounds of the Super Rugby season. But at least Deans provided some encouraging signs for Barnes yesterday. There is weight in being the incumbent.

''Berrick has the advantage of what he has done this month,'' Deans said. ''But, hopefully, we will be confronted with choice because they [No.10 candidates] are all different, and bring different things. For Berrick to come out of this month with the confidence he has got is great. There is still quite a bit of footy to be played between now and then. And we will be watching it all.''

The Waratahs' season is effectively over but, for Barnes, how he performs against the Brumbies and Reds in their last two games will determine if the crusade continues.

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Rugby Internationals 2014

Round 1
Sat, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 18 vs TGA 18 Report Stats
FJI 25 vs ITA 14 Report Stats
NZL 20 vs ENG 15 Report Stats
AUS 50 vs FRA 23 Report Stats
Sun, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 47 vs WXV 13 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 29 Report Stats
USA 6 vs SCO 24 Report Stats
CAN 25 vs JPN 34 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sat, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 15 vs ITA Report Stats
FJI 45 vs TGA 17 Report Stats
NZL 28 vs ENG 27 Report Stats
AUS 6 vs FRA Report Stats
Sun, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 38 vs WAL 16 Report Stats
CAN 17 vs SCO 19 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 23 Report Stats
USA 29 vs JPN 37 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Sat, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
ARG 19 vs SCO 21 Report Stats
FJI 13 vs SAM 18 Report Stats
JPN 26 vs ITA 23 Report Stats
AUS 39 vs FRA 13 Stats
NZL 36 vs ENG 13 Report Stats
Sun, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 31 vs WAL 30 Report Stats
USA 38 vs CAN 35 Report Stats
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Round 4
Sun, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 55 vs SCO 6 Report Stats
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Round 5
Sun, 02 NovTimes shown AEDT
BAR vs AUS 01:30Twic
USA vs NZL 07:00Soldier Field
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Round 6
Sun, 09 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA vs SAM 01:00Stadio Del Duca
ENG vs NZL 01:30Twic
WAL vs AUS 01:30MilS
FRA vs FJI 03:45Stade Velodrome
IRE vs RSA 04:30Lansdowne Road
SCO vs ARG 04:30Murrayfield Stadium
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Round 7
Sun, 16 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA vs ARG 01:00Stadio Comunale Luigi Ferraris
ENG vs RSA 01:30Twic
WAL vs FJI 01:30MilS
SCO vs NZL 04:30Murrayfield Stadium
FRA vs AUS 07:00StdF
Mon, 17 NovTimes shown AEDT
IRE vs GEO 01:30Lansdowne Road
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Round 8
Sun, 23 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA vs RSA 01:00Stadio Plebiscito
SCO vs TGA 01:30Rugby Park
IRE vs AUS 03:30Lansdowne Road
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ENG vs SAM 06:00Twic
FRA vs ARG 07:00StdF
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Round 9
Sun, 30 NovTimes shown AEDT
ENG vs AUS 01:30Twic
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