How Beauden Barrett has grown into role of Test-quality No. 10

Beauden Barrett's try wrapped up RWC 2015 for the All Blacks. Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

There was only going to be one result when New Zealand full-back Ben Smith dropped the ball onto his right foot in the final few minutes of the 2015 Rugby World Cup final. For looming up on the inside was one of the fastest men in world rugby: All Blacks replacement Beauden Barrett.

"Yeah unbelievable, for how that ball bounced up I just couldn't believe my luck," Barrett recalled to ESPN.

"And it's just a memory, a feeling that will stick with me for a long time. Obviously it was on the back of a great team performance and it was pretty nice to finish that way."

Having come on with 15 minute to play in the Twickenham decider, Barrett's fresh legs iced the All Blacks' third Webb Ellis crown after Sonny Bill Williams had made a similarly important impact from the bench just after half-time.

But it wasn't always about speed for the son of Pungarehu cattle farmers, and brother to seven siblings, with his early running more about endurance that pure pace.

"I was never that quick as a kid," Barrett told ESPN. "I was more into the long-distance stuff: running the hills."

"Mum would make me run home from school and so on; we had some pretty adventurous cross-country courses, which was good fun."

Barrett and Smith were at it again recently during the All Blacks' 3-0 sweep of Wales.

An injury to fly-half Aaron Cruden gave Barrett 45 minutes at No. 10 in the second Test before he started the third Test in the same position.

A return of three tries, a further assist, four clean breaks and a swathe of beaten defenders reflected his superb contribution in Wellington and Dunedin, and only added to the selection headache All Blacks coach Steve Hansen will have come the Rugby Championship.

"Look it was unfortunate for Aaron and the injury that he had, but it was an opportunity for me to just play footy and, you know, drive the All Black team -- and that was an opportunity that I really enjoyed," Barrett said.

"I felt quite composed doing it and I really did enjoy that game and a half [at No. 10]."

As for moving to fullback, as he did in the closing stages of New Zealand's 46-6 triumph in Dunedin, Barrett said: " [Smith] is a class player; getting pushed back to fullback, it opens my eyes up and there's a lot more time, space and freedom back there, and if it's alongside Ben it's pretty exciting. But, yeah, I enjoy my time back there as well.

"[Acting as a replacement] certainly is part of development, playing footy is part of the development, and the time that I have had on the park [at Test level] has mostly been off the bench.

"But, yeah, I've really enjoyed my opportunity starting and even if it's going to full-back for the last part of the game I'm really happy to do that. So there's different ways you can do it, but ultimately it's just what works best for the team, and the coaches and selectors make those decisions."

With the Test series put to one side, Barrett is now back at work with the Hurricanes as they seek a second straight appearance in the Super Rugby playoffs.

Last week's 37-27 over north island neighbours the Blues brought the Hurricanes within two points of the New Zealand conference lead while ensuring they continue to occupy a wildcard position.

But they face a difficult road trip to Sydney for this weekend's penultimate round before a final regular-season showdown with the Crusaders in Christchurch.

A win over the Waratahs at Allianz Stadium on Saturday will be good enough to secure a semifinals spot; but having dropped their past two against NSW, and six of the last eight, it is anything but an easy assignment.

"It's going to be a huge challenge for us; both teams need to win, there's no hiding from that," Barrett told ESPN.

"We're aware of their strengths and they've got plenty of X-factor, and power and strength in that forward pack as well. So it's going to be a great game and we're looking forward to it, we're just going to have to take the opportunities that we get.

"We have to win that physical battle; they've got some really big boys and you know [Hooper] is there, too.

"The breakdown; it's going to be a huge, huge challenge for us to dominate that breakdown because both teams want to play footy and we know they'll do everything they can to slow us down and to give us poor quality ball, and we'll be doing the same. So whoever wins that battle will win the game."