Former All Black number 10 Nick Evans wants the Richie Mo’unga to be given the chance to prove he could lead New Zealand to World Cup glory in Japan by being thrown into meaningful Rugby Championship matches ahead of Beauden Barrett.
Evans knows all about the pressures created by competition for the playmaker role in the best team in the world having shadowed Dan Carter during his career. Evans sees Barrett as the number one choice, but understands why Mo’unga has so much support after his Super Rugby heroics and wants to see the Crusaders outside half given significant game time in matches that really matter during the Championship.
He explained: “Beauden will go into the World Cup as first choice number 10 and is the best in the world and I want to see Richie controlling a Test – not given a chance in a match that is basically a dead rubber. Let’s put him into a situation where he needs to play well and if Beauden does get injured you need to know the next in line can win you the World Cup.
“It is true that Richie may not make the 23 if Beauden starts, but he was fantastic for the Crusaders and I would give him a chance early in the Rugby Championship. It is important for the All Blacks group to see him getting the team over the line in a Test match and there is a case for putting Richie in for the first two Tests to give Beauden a kick up the bum.
“Going into a World Cup you need to know where you stand and in 2007 I knew that Carter was the number one and whenever I got my opportunity I had to make sure I helped the team and you cannot be sulking or negative.”
Wallaby legend Michael Lynagh believes New Zealand should pick Mo’unga at 10 for Saturday’s clash with Australia, but expects the mercurial Crusaders playmaker to be left out of the All Blacks Bledisloe Cup match squad.
Lynagh is a big fan of Mo’unga who masterminded the Crusaders’ Super Rugby title triumph and insists he should be picked ahead of Barrett for the opening Rugby Championship battle with the Wallabies in Sydney. However, Lynagh recognises the All Blacks need to immediately stamp their authority on the Championship and that means sticking to the tried and tested Barrett with Mo’unga missing out on a place in the match 23 as Damian McKenzie, would then cover No10 and full back on the bench.
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Lynagh, who won 72 caps for Australia and lifted the 1991 World Cup, explained: “Richie Mo’unga played really well in both the Super Rugby semi-final and the final and is the form No10, but if Beauden gets picked to start then I don’t see Richie making the 23. Beauden has a bit of currency in the bank and it would be a very brave move for New Zealand to change their number 10 straight up from a winning formula.
“What Damian McKenzie has shown is that he is the Beauden Barrett of a few years ago and makes a huge difference whenever he comes on and can cover 10 and 15. I just feel that if Mo’unga doesn’t start then he won’t get into the match 23. The fact is that New Zealand have three number 10’s that most countries would be picking and you could start with Mo’unga and bring Barrett off the bench or start him at 15 with McKenzie on the bench. It’s an embarrassment of riches and because Barrett has the runs on the board he probably deserves a first shot at it. I am sure that Richie will get his chance in the Championship.”
Lynagh views Saturday’s match as an opportunity for Australia to strike a blow for the whole game and while he doesn’t agree with scrum half Will Genia’s assertion that it’s bigger than the World Cup, he recognises the significance of the clash.
Lynagh added: “The Bledisloe Cup isn’t as big as the World Cup but it is the next game that Australia play therefore it is the biggest. There is an enormous amount of pressure on Australia to beat New Zealand and Genia’s comment highlights that fact. I am sure the rest of the rugby World is saying “ come on Australia, do us all a favour and show that the All Blacks are beatable”. It would give everyone hope going into the World Cup and this really is a big game for Australia.
“You get the sense that Australian rugby is on an upward curve but I am not saying we are going to suddenly be World beaters but we are on the up heading into the World Cup with 12 months to go. It would be great to win the first up match with the All Blacks and it is probably our best chance of defeating them. If we don’t it’s not the end of the World and I just hope it’s not like last year when we were 40 points down in the Bledisloe Cup opener at half time.
“I really hope we are in a better situation this time or else we will be 40 points down at the break again!”
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