In 2018 the Crusaders had well and truly taken over Super Rugby, affirming their dominance over New Zealand’s previous number one team, the Hurricanes.
With it came growing calls from Canterbury for Richie Mo’unga to take over from Beauden Barrett as the All Blacks first-five.
The back-to-back World Rugby Player of the Year entered the 2018 international season under the cloud of Mo’unga debate as the All Blacks took on France in June.
An unconvincing first 50-minutes in the first test did little to quell the talk, as the All Blacks went to sheds down at halftime.
A second-half blitz powered by Damian McKenzie and Ngani Laumape off the bench blew the French off the park but Barrett’s influence wasn’t at the level that the fans were used to.
Barrett himself lasted just 10-minutes in the second test after an aerial challenge with Benjamin Fall forced him from the field and out of the remainder of the series.
Heading into The Rugby Championship, the Crusaders had just secured back-to-back Super Rugby titles by downing the Lions for a second time, this time at home 37-18. On the way, they dispatched Barrett’s Hurricanes 30-12 in Christchurch in the semi-finals.
The calls for Mo’unga to take over were peaking. It was time for Barrett to silence them.
In a 38-13 win in the first Bledisloe test Sydney, Barrett scored the pivotal try that broke the game open and set up two more in a 13-point haul.
The All Blacks returned to Eden Park to pump the Wallabies 40-12 with Barrett himself scoring four tries in a 30-point personal tally, a Bledisloe record.
Barrett quickly resumed his reign as the All Blacks 10 and put together another solid season to earn another nomination as the World Rugby Player of the Year but fell short of three straight awards, with the title going to Johnny Sexton.
Barrett’s four-try performance against the Wallabies would go down as the game that put the Mo’unga talk to bed in the 2018 season.
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