That’s the message from current Crusaders backs coach Ronan O’Gara, who is and has worked with both classy pivots.
Mo’unga had probably his least impressive outing for the Crusaders since the 2017 British and Irish Lions clash, missing all three attempts off the tee in the season opener against the Blues and failing to exert his customary authority in the No 10 jersey.
“It takes a number of years as a kicker to find that consistency, so (Richie’s) still learning in that regard. He’s not going to have a stormer every week. That’s what he was doing last year,” O’Gara told RugbyPass.
“The Blues were putting shots on him after he’d passed that ball as well, so he’s going to get used to life as one of the top outside halves in the world.
“He’s still young. It’s interesting because if you have an attitude like his you always want to get better and grow your game. He’s very natural and easy to work with,” O’Gara says of a man who has been the best No 10 in Super Rugby in 2017-18, with all due respect to Beauden Barrett’s 2017 output.
O’Gara worked with Carter as a skills coach at Racing 92, winning the 2016 French Top 14 title together. The All Blacks great, soon to turn 37, will return to Paris next month as a ‘medical joker’ to cover for the retirement of Pat Lambie and now with Finn Russell concussed. Ben Volavola may run the cutter in the short-term.
Despite claims in some quarters that Carter lived the high life too much during his sojourn in the French capital, O’Gara enjoyed his association with the man who scored 1598 points for the All Blacks.
“He’s like a Group 1 horse. You’re going to have to shoot him to keep him down. He’s such a competitor. He loves it. I met him before the (Blues v Crusaders) game. He looks in great shape and will be a huge addition.
“He was brilliant in Paris. He brought such a good attitude.
“He completely changed the way he defends. He was in the Wayne Smith mould and I changed him into a far more aggressive defender in terms of taking away time and space. All those great players are always open to new ideas,” says O’Gara.
By way of explanation, we all know Carter was a solid tackler, certainly far more so than O’Gara, but he was never one to rush up and spot tackle, happier to drift in behind the line.
Last year Mo’unga told RugbyPass that O’Gara was big on spiral punting. We haven’t seen a lot of evidence of that yet in the Crusaders’ kicking game – Mick Byrne popularised the drop punt in New Zealand rugby and it is now ubiquitous – but they are working on it.
“It’s a big focus for a lot of guys here because it’s such a hard kick to defend against. I’m just trying to get it into their armoury. It was a kick I was brought up on in Ireland but the end over end has become very popular. We train it a lot. The boys enjoy doing it but it’s different putting it out in a Super Rugby game,” adds O’Gara.
He would love to see all the backs be able to kick effectively with at least one foot. It is an indictment on the skill level of some New Zealand backs when you consider that coaching books were around in the amateur days which called for all backs to be able to kick well with either foot and all forwards with at least one foot. Oh for a Colin Slade.
In the meantime, O’Gara is relishing working closely with four quality first fives, the others being Mitch Hunt, Brett Cameron (now a fully-fledged All Black) and 2017 NZ Barbarians Schools rep Fergus Burke.
We could not let O’Gara, who was in the north on media duty earlier this month, go without a comment on Ireland’s Six Nations prospects after two rounds nor the Johnny Sexton-Joey Carbery rivalry, which showcases contrasting styles.
“Challenging for the title will be very difficult as England has 10 points and Ireland has four points. There may be another twist but maybe they can chill out for Rugby World Cup over the next three games.
“Johnny, being the natural competitor that he is, will try and keep Joey down for as long as he can, but Joey seems to be an exceptionally good 10. Ireland are lucky.”
O’Gara knows all about rivals for the Ireland No 10 jersey, having fended off both David Humphreys and latterly Sexton in his long career.
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