In August, the Crusaders beat the Lions to lift the Super Rugby title for the first time since 2006, and last weekend Canterbury beat Tasman in the Mitre 10 final to claim domestic bragging rights in New Zealand.
Both campaigns were steered by Richie Mo’unga in the No 10 jersey, who had to step into the role after the departures of Dan Carter and Colin Slade.
Last week’s final saw Mo’unga score two tries and put together 25 points, the most by an individual in the history of NPC finals, to help the Christchurch side to their third consecutive title and confirm what people who knew him had already been saying – he’s one for the future.
“It feels like a month ago now,” Mo’unga told Sky Sports. “It was really awesome to get a title with Canterbury – Mitre 10 is such a great competition, you have young players coming out of the blocks and playing awesome footy, so to go three in a row with Canterbury was great.”
Mo'unga scored this incredible solo try in the Mitre 10 Premiership final
The 23-year-old is aware that the performances have not gone unnoticed by Steve Hansen, who drafted Mo’unga into the All Blacks camp as cover for Beauden Barrett ahead of the Test against Australia last month. However, the pivot is determined to make a real statement when he lines up against the All Blacks at Twickenham this Saturday on Sky Sports.
“The coaches were obviously overseas [during the final] but they are always watching. There’s a lot of people involved in the All Blacks, so some of them would have been watching.
“For me now it’s about putting in a good performance on Saturday – I know he’ll be watching that one!”
Barbarians vs New Zealand
November 4, 2017, 2:55pm
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The former New Zealand U20s player is relishing his time in the Barbarians camp.
“It’s a surreal feeling. You realise during the week when you’re part of this team that it has such great history. It’s a rugby team that values fun and enjoyment, team work and togetherness. To be part of it is awesome.
“We’ve definitely had a lot of fun – it’s been one of the best weeks of my life. You’re on tour, you’re in London, you’re away with a lot of the boys and you’re getting to know everyone.
“It doesn’t happen any other time in your career, unless you’re part of part of the Barbarians team, that you meet guys for the first time in your life and then six or seven days later play rugby with them.”
Mo’unga says he has benefited from the experience of some of the older heads in the group.
“You’ve got great players who have been playing the game for many years; guys like Ben Franks, Adriaan Strauss and Andy Ellis. It’s been a privilege.”
Given the pedigree of the senior players in the group, and their familiarity with international rugby, it therefore comes as a surprise to learn that Mo’unga was the one giving the team talk in the hotel before practice on Thursday morning.
“You have to if you’re a fly-half. It’s your job to make the boys believe in what you’re saying and to lead them around the park.
“I have no choice, I have to nail that on Saturday along with [scrum-half] Andy Ellis. It’s part of my job and I take great pride in it.”
Much like Julian Savea and several other New Zealanders in the Barbarians squad, Saturday offers an opportunity to stake a claim to a black jersey – as well as a rare chance to face the All Blacks’ Haka.
“I haven’t quite thought about that yet,” says Mo’unga. “But it’s going to be an amazing feeling. I know what the Haka signifies and what it means, coming from New Zealand.
“For the other boys that haven’t faced the Haka yet, it’s going to be awesome for them.”