Mo’unga started just one in nine caps prior to 2019, but he has since put his excellent form at the Super Rugby-winning Crusaders to good use in convincing Hansen to rejig his Test team backline at the World Cup in Japan.
With Beauden Barrett switching to full-back, Mo’unga has started at No10 in his last five All Blacks appearances. Now he faces Ireland, the former Test team of O’Gara, the Crusaders assistant coach who won two Super Rugby titles with Mo’unga before heading to France in July to take the head coach role at La Rochelle.
“ROG has been awesome. He’s still very hard to understand, so I take very little from our conversations, but he’s very determined, like all Irish are, very driven, and that gives me a little insight into what the Irish are like.
“This week is going to be a very tough test. They’re going to come all guns blazing,” continued Mo’unga, who added about Saturday’s rival ten Johnny Sexton: “He’s awesome, world-class. Player of the year last year, very skilful, a lot of good touches, finesse, his catch and pass and kicking game is great.”
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Mo’unga’s 2019 emergence isn’t the Crusaders’ sole success story with the All Blacks as club-mates Sevu Reece and George Bridge have also successfully made the leap from Super Rugby to being first-choice New Zealand players at the World Cup.
“I had a joke with Sevu about who would have thought at the start of this year we’d be here together, let alone all three of us. These are very special moments. To go even deeper, our families are so proud of us and we want to make them proud.
Nigel Owens' appointment for Ireland versus New Zealand in the quarter-finals isn't proving popular with the boys in green https://t.co/9bC7K9z9ao
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 15, 2019
“My memories of the All Blacks started from Jonah Lomu, looking up to the great tens, and what happened in 2011. As a ten myself, I thought, ‘man, if only I was a bit older, I might have got the call-up’.
“He [Lomu] inspired a lot of young Kiwis and I’ve no doubt he inspired a lot of the world in terms of rugby. As All Blacks, it means a lot to us if we can inspire people and inspire young Kiwis.
“That’s how my love of the game grew. He was able to do things I thought people could never do. The inspiration and my love for the game grew within me and grew my desire to be an All Black.”
WATCH: Steve Hansen’s media conference ahead of his side’s World Cup quarter-final against Ireland
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