All Blacks coach Ian Foster has praised flyhalf Richie Mo’unga after the 26-year-old played a near-perfect game in the 43-5 record win over the Wallabies in Sydney. The win saw the All Blacks lock up the Bledisloe Cup for an 18th straight year, and get their Tri Nations campaign off to an ideal start.
The flyhalf bagged a 23-point haul, including a six-minute double midway through the first-half. He came close to completing a hat-trick just before the break too, but was tripped up by Wallabies fullback Dane Haylett-Petty five metres out from the try-line.
But Mo’unga’s performance in the 38-point win, in the wet, was arguably the most settled he’s looked in international rugby.
“We haven’t been a great team in the wet in the last couple of years, and we’ve often tried to overplay our hand. Generally we’re a ball-in-hand team that likes to do things and we like to attack and be clever, and sometimes that can expose you in wet conditions,” Foster said.
“He [Mo’unga] played a really sensible game. I’m not trying to downplay his game, but he made some obvious calls.
“We put a lot of pressure on the people around him to be really good communicators to him, so the likes of Jack Goodhue, Anton [Leinert-Brown], Beauden [Barrett] and Aaron Smith, they all played a bit part in that. When they play their part he’s able to do what he’s good at.
Here’s something Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’unga prepared earlier.ADVERTISEMENT
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 31, 2020
“He’s back himself in a couple of intuitive moments and they came off, but he also put his foot to the ball when he needed to and he had that kicking control which has been a work-on for him.”
The All Blacks pivot has been criticised throughout his time in the black jersey for not being able to replicate his domestic form in test matches.
But that’s exactly what prompted All Blacks scrumhalf TJ Perenara to say that he “expected” a performance like that, as he echoed his coaches comments.
“Some of the stuff Richie did last night, it was pretty special. He’s a humble guy and he knows his part of the job, and I do too. I expect Richie to go out there and I expect Richie to play well,” Perenara stated.
“When he does that sort of stuff, it’s something that I know he can do because I’ve see it at Super Rugby, I’ve seen it at training. But when you do see it at the arena, you can’t help but be like, ‘man, that’s a bad man out there.’
“Some of the stuff he did out there was stuff that other people can’t do.
“He trains hard enough to put himself in positions to do that, and to be completely honest, it was awesome but I expected him to do that because he’s that good of a player.”
Mo’unga humbly deflected the praise for his performance in Bledisloe III, saying that as “All Blacks it’s always about the team.”
An explosive opening 13 minutes hasn’t been enough to stop the All Blacks from stamping their authority over the Wallabies in the first half of Bledisloe Cup III in Sydney. #BledisloeCup #AUSvNZL https://t.co/MfT5CZxk3z
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 31, 2020
“Last night we just went in with a really clear and simple game plan which I think suited myself and the boys around me, and that was playing in their half a little bit due to the weather, and kicking more, and all those things that I like to do personally,” Mo’unga said on Sunday morning.
“It’s the clarity in the game plan, clarity in what we wanted to do as a team. The weather was a big part of that so we had to play a bit differently to how we did in Bledisloe One and Two.
“I wouldn’t say that it was any different, it was still business as usual, still the same mindset, still the same goal and drive to want to be the best I can. I got the rub of the green a bit yesterday and was really supported by the boys around me which resulted in a great performance.
“You’ve got to be honest with yourself; you’re chuffed, you’re happy, you’re proud of a performance like that. But you can’t take away what the whole group has done.”
As well as being arguably Mo’unga’s best test in an All Blacks jersey, it also fuelled the debate for the dual playmaker strategy which allowed Beauden Barrett to shift to fullback from flyhalf, after he had won two World Rugby Player of the Year accolades in the position.
But on Saturday, Mo’unga was able to play with the confidence to step up and control the All Blacks attack, while the Wallabies restricted Barrett to just 15 run metres.
“Every rugby game is different, it doesn’t’ always present the same opportunities so it was good to connect with Beauden last night on that.
“We just train and practice those things together throughout the weeks and sometimes they come off and sometimes they don’t but it as nice.”
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