'Until I retire': Richie Mo'unga at peace with All Blacks career
Despite some swirling murmurings that a change in eligibility laws is high on Scott Robertson’s agenda as the new All Blacks coach, specifically when it comes to his partner in Super Rugby crime Richie Mo’unga, the flyhalf is happy to put his All Blacks tenure to rest.
The Crusaders’ seven-year reign as Super Rugby champions proved how deadly the duo can be, and while Mo’unga, who Robertson has affectionately described as the Crusaders’ “Stephen Curry”, stopped short of ruling out any All Blacks involvement altogether, he was keen to express his commitment to his new club.
Mo’unga, alongside fellow All Black Shannon Frizell, was officially welcomed in Japan this week and shared some brief thoughts on his career ahead, including life beyond his current three-year deal with Toshiba Brave Lupus.
“I’m focused on the present,” Mo’unga said. “I just want to give all I can to Toshiba.
“I really can see myself playing here as long as I can until I retire… At this very point, the All Blacks is over there.
“I don’t like using the term ‘sabbatical’; this isn’t a rest for me, it’s not a one-year thing. I’m fully involved and fully committed.”
His lone comment on the All Blacks drops something of a hint as to his consideration of a potential eligibility change.
Mo’unga announced his long-term deal with the Tokyo team prior to Scott Robertson’s official signing as Ian Foster’s successor, but it’s most likely Mo’unga was well aware of the appointment given the timing and comments from Razor in the months leading up to it.
“I’m going for more reasons than just footy or who’s head coach,” Mo’unga said back in March. “I’m going as a father now, to provide for my family and take on a new challenge – that I think my family is ready for in Japan.
“You have the ‘would’ve’ or ‘could’ve’, but I’m just really proud of Razor and his achievement.
“People that know Razor know that he’ll do an awesome job with the All Blacks.”
Mo’unga’s reign as undisputed All Blacks No. 10 has been relatively short-lived, only wrestling the jersey off Beauden Barrett for good a few games into last year.
At just 29 years of age, it’s quite likely the playmaker’s best years are still ahead of him. Certainly, when it comes to the international game, the Rugby World Cup silver medalist looked to be truly establishing himself in 2023, having struggled to display his full skillset in the black jersey previously.
With his recent international form and what many would expect to be a boost in responsibility from his former Crusaders coach, the “what if” questions remain palpable.
“I do have a special relationship with him (Robertson), we’ve spent a lot of years together.
“He’s never stopped believing in me, told me that I’m the man for the job, regardless of performances.
“That belief goes both ways, I believe in him and his abilities as a head coach.
“We’ve been through the ups and downs together. We’ve lost games and won games, so I know the respect is there in what we do for each other.
“I’m really happy for him.”