All Blacks' Rugby Championship squad: Could Mo'unga really usurp Barrett?

Crusaders assistant coach Brad Mooar has lauded Richie Mo'unga as the "whole package" as the decision as to who wears the All Blacks No.10 jersey for the Bledisloe Cup opener dominates discussion in New Zealand.

Mo'unga will have one final opportunity to impress All Blacks selectors in this weekend's Super Rugby final when the Crusaders will attempt to notch back-to-back titles, and their ninth overall, with a victory over the Lions in Christchurch.

The indications are that All Blacks coach Steve Hansen and his fellow selectors will stick with Beauden Barrett as their No.10 for the August 18 clash in Sydney, with Chiefs playmaker Damian McKenzie providing fly-half and fullback cover from the bench.

But there is no hiding from the fact that Mo'unga, who made his Test debut off the bench against France in June, is enjoying a superb season behind a hugely-dominant Crusaders pack, one that could provide as many as five forwards to the All Blacks' run-on side to face the Wallabies.

Barrett's ability to break a game open on his own may be unmatched across the globe, but it's Mo'unga's all-round game that is seeing him win support from pundits and fans alike.


"It's just wonderful having a player and a person like him around, full-stop, he's just growing before our eyes," Mooar said Monday. "He's in form; sides no doubt want to put a bit of pressure on there like every team wants to pressure a first five-eighth; but he doesn't shy away from that and accepts that that is part of the job, and I think that really helps him do his job and see the opportunities that come."

In last Saturday's semifinal victory over the Hurricanes, Mo'unga scored one try himself and had a hand in two others as the Crusaders triumphed 30-12.

Barrett is one of the fastest players in the game, while McKenzie is blessed with sharp feet himself, but Mooar said Mo'unga's speed and "time on the ball" had become a huge asset in creating opportunities for the Crusaders in attack.

"Richie's got the whole package, hasn't he? He's superbly quick; his first 10 metres is outstanding," Mooar said. "Footwork unreal, so he creates space and he's one of those great players, like in any code, [he's got] time on the ball; so when others seem a little bit rushed, he's got a bit more time and with that comes vision and decision-making.

"So once you've got that ability to do that and great communication around you, then your chances of doing the right thing are right up there."

Barrett started the first two Tests against France in June and is a two-time reigning World Rugby Player of the Year while McKenzie has played most of his Test rugby to date at fullback, before he replaced Barrett for the All Blacks last game in Dunedin.

Hansen will name his Rugby Championship squad on Monday morning.