The rise of the Barrett brothers, the All Blacks' prolific family affair

CNN/Stylemagazine.com Newswire | 2/25/2019, 1:15 p.m.
When asked what he planned to do after retiring from rugby, Kevin Barrett -- or "Smiley," as he was nicknamed ...
From left to right, Barrett brothers Jordie, Beauden, and Scott after New Zealand's test match against Samoa in 2017. It's not uncommon for two brothers to line up for the All Blacks -- 46 sets have done so in the past -- but for a single family to have such a foothold within the current team is unprecedented.

By George Ramsay and Alex Thomas, CNN

(CNN) -- When asked what he planned to do after retiring from rugby, Kevin Barrett -- or "Smiley," as he was nicknamed -- announced he was "going to breed some All Blacks."

A bold statement, but he did just that. Three of them, to be precise -- the first trio of siblings to ever start a game for New Zealand's hallowed rugby team.

Beauden -- a World Cup winner and two-time player of the year -- Jordie, and Scott made history when they linked arms to sing the national anthem before taking on France in 2018.

It's not uncommon for two brothers to line up for the All Blacks -- 46 sets have done so in the past -- but for a single family to have such a foothold within the current team is unprecedented.

Good genes certainly play their part: Dad Kevin was an uncompromising second row forward in his playing days, turning out for provincial side Taranaki 167 times, while Mom Robyn was a strong runner and a talented netball and basketball player.

But growing up on a dairy farm on the west coast of New Zealand's North Island did its bit for the boys too.

"It certainly helped just having acres and acres of green grass, a back lawn where there's goal posts and plenty of siblings and cousins around to compete with and play against," Beauden, who has over 70 All Blacks caps to his name, tells CNN World Rugby.

"I think that the only thing that mum ever forced us into doing something was dropping us off at the top of the road and grabbing our school bag. She'd give us a pair of sneakers and say, 'Run home.'"

But on the playground that was the family farm, shoes were unnecessary. Barefoot running was usually the way the siblings roamed the pastureland surrounding their home.

"I was more than happy to not wear shoes. The only time we wore shoes was on Sunday when we went to church," says Beauden. "Our feet were pretty tough back then, I couldn't do it today."

Swapping sports

A competitive urge came naturally to the Barrett boys, often at the expense of Jordie -- the youngest of the family's five brothers.

"Most of them aren't very nice memories, I spent a lot of the time crying and trying to compete and be as good as my older brothers," he says.

"But it was a very good position to be in. I was lucky, I always had boys to kick the ball around with or play backyard cricket with so that was a pretty cool position to be in."

There are eight Barrett siblings in total, each of whom carries the sport-obsessed genes. Kane, the eldest, was a talented rugby player turning out for Taranaki and Super Rugby side the Blues before concussion forced him to retire early, and Blake, the fourth brother, also plays at the local club.