Richard Knowler is a senior rugby editor for Stuff
OPINION: Rewarding Richie Mo’unga for his lionhearted effort in Johannesburg should already be a done deal for All Blacks manager Ian Foster ahead of the test against Argentina.
Given how calmly Mo’unga contributed to the All Blacks’ 35-23 win over the Springboks at Ellis Park on August 14, it would be a brave and controversial appeal to deny him the No.10 shirt for the Championship Test. rugby at Orangetheory Stadium in Christchurch on Saturday night.
Foster, it could also be argued, owes this opportunity to Mo’unga. The team will be made public on Thursday.
The All Blacks manager will lead the team through to next year’s Rugby World Cup after winning unanimous backing from NZR.
Not starting Mo’unga in Christchurch, where the All Blacks haven’t played since 2016, wouldn’t just deprive him of the chance to represent his country in front of his family and supporters in his hometown for the first time.
It would also be a failure to recognize how influential he was in turning around the All Blacks’ fortunes at Ellis Park, after three straight defeats.
Mo’unga, to put it bluntly, helped save Foster’s career.
Until the test at Ellis Park, Beauden Barrett had been Foster’s favorite first five-eighth for the first four Tests of the year. But after the 26-10 defeat at Mbombela on August 7, which coincided with Barrett’s involvement in a terrible mid-air collision with Kurt-Lee Arendse in the final minutes, Mo’unga was promoted to start and Barrett was listed. on the bench. for the second test against the Springboks.
Foster needed a small miracle to stop NZ Rugby showing him the door, and Mo’unga waved a wand in front of 62,000 hostile fans to ensure it remained closed.
The All Blacks turned in their biggest performance under Foster since he started work in 2020, with Mo’unga throwing three penalties and three conversions.
It was his handling of the game, however, that was huge.
As former All Blacks captain Kieran Read noted, Mo’unga completed a much improved effort from a group of forwards, led by tireless lock Scott Barrett, who had been exposed in the kicks. stopped and breakdowns in Mbombela.
“Richie Mo’unga was the guy for me, who steered the ship and got us to the right areas of the pitch,” Read told SENZ radio.
Foster, after sacking assistants John Plumtree and Brad Mooar following the 2-1 loss to Ireland last month, will set up camp in Christchurch with the revamped coaching staff that will support him until the World Cup l ‘next year.
The addition of former Ireland manager Joe Schmidt as the man in charge of attack, he will continue his role as co-manager with Foster, could take backline performances to the next level.
Mo’unga’s partnership with second five David Havili also went smoothly at Ellis Park, which mirrored their performances with the Crusaders, and helped center Reiko Ioane flourish.
The Argentine, now coached by Michael Cheika, arrived in Christchurch with fond memories of a record 48-17 win over the Wallabies in San Juan.
While the Wallabies were the architects of their own demise, their organization under the high ball was dismal, the All Blacks will not have forgotten their very first defeat against the South Americans in Sydney in 2020.
Foster, speaking last week, said the decision to promote Schmidt to practice coach would require him to work with multiple staff members.
“We’ve now decided to move it out of the computer room and put it in the park a bit more,” Foster said.
“On the park, he’s going to work alongside me and to a lesser extent with Stormy (defense coach Scott McLeod) to have a bit of an impact on the park with the attacking part of the game.”