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Wallabies boss Dave Rennie says Richie Mo'unga is 'world's best 10'

By Sam Smith

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Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie has labelled All Blacks playmaker Richie Mo’unga as “the best No. 10 in the world” ahead of his side’s test series against France.

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The Wallabies will kick-off their three-match series against Les Bleus in Brisbane next Wednesday, but Rennie has turned his attention to the All Blacks, who will begin their test season against Tonga in Auckland on Saturday.

Speaking to Stuff from their Gold Coast training base this week, Rennie said his All Blacks counterpart Ian Foster was spoiled for choice at first-five.

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Quinn Tupaea named to start for the All Blacks and partners Rieko Ioane in the midfield
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Quinn Tupaea named to start for the All Blacks and partners Rieko Ioane in the midfield

The All Blacks have both Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett to choose from to wear the No. 10 jersey, but Rennie indicated his preference for the former of the two.

“He [Foster] is probably spoilt for choice, isn’t he?” Rennie said. “Beauden Barrett, he’s been away, he’s had a full season at No. 10 for Suntory and keen to wrestle that jersey back.

“They’ve got Damian McKenzie, who primarily played at No 15 but he played more No 10 this year, and that’s a position he’s always wanted to play. There’s no shortage of options for them.”

Rennie’s endorsement of Mo’unga comes after the mercurial Crusaders pivot was handed the starting role for New Zealand’s clash against ‘Ikale Tahi at Mt Smart Stadium this weekend.

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Foster explained to media on Thursday that Barrett’s sabbatical in Japan this year gave Mo’unga the edge when picking this week’s team to face Tonga.

“He’s been playing in New Zealand this year. I think he’s been playing at that intensity, and so I think that gives him the nod for this game,” he said.

“Beaudy, I’ve been following him a lot in Japan, been pleased with what we saw, but there’s still a lift when he comes back, so I guess it gives him another week of training with us before we make the next assessment.”

While the All Blacks have two of the best first-fives in the world to pick from, Rennie is struggling with depth in the No. 10 jersey within his own squad as veteran playmaker James O’Connor battles a groin injury.

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That leaves the Queensland Reds captain in doubt for Australia’s season-opening test at Suncorp Stadium, while the Wallabies will also be without their other most experienced first-five option Matt To’omua, who is sidelined with a neck injury.

However, Rennie will still be able to call on either promising Brumbies star Noah Lolesio or Melbourne Rebels utility back Reece Hodge to wear the No. 10 jersey in the first clash against the French.

O’Connor and To’omua aren’t the only members of the Wallabies squad facing injury concerns, as halfbacks Nic White and Jake Gordon are both recovering from knee injuries, which should allow Tate McDermott to start at No. 9.

Meanwhile, Rennie highlighted livewire Highlanders wing Jona Nareki as the unluckiest player to miss out on Foster’s All Blacks squad after his compelling Super Rugby season.

“It’s more that when you look at them you look at who misses out, and the quality of those players,” Rennie told Stuff.

“You look at Jona Nareki, who has just been incredible for the Highlanders. He’s not only electric, he’s an aggressive defender, and he’s got a great kicking game.

“But, you look at who they have picked and they are all worthy All Blacks too, and you’ve got Caleb Clarke running around with the sevens team.

“It just shows the quality and the depth in New Zealand rugby. You’re always going to have quality players missing out.”

Following their respective July test schedules, the All Blacks and Wallabies are set to resume their Bledisloe Cup rivalry in August when they square off in three consecutive tests in Auckland, Perth and Wellington.

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Wallabies boss Dave Rennie says Richie Mo'unga is 'world's best 10'

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