Richie Mo’unga on hunt for a Super Rugby spot

BRENDON EGAN
Last updated 05:00 03/09/2014
PIVOT: Richie Mo'unga will move to his more accustomed first-five position for tomorrow night’s NPC clash with Otago under the roof in Dunedin.
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PIVOT: Richie Mo'unga will move to his more accustomed first-five position for tomorrow night’s NPC clash with Otago under the roof in Dunedin.

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If Richie Mo'unga keeps going the way he is, expect Super Rugby interest to intensify.

The 20-year-old Canterbury backline utility yesterday admitted he had not heard from any New Zealand franchises about a contract offer for next year.

Mo'unga has been in strong form at fullback during Canterbury's opening three games.

He will move to his more accustomed first-five position for tomorrow night's National Provincial Championship clash with Otago under the roof in Dunedin.

With Tyler Bleyendaal (neck) and Tom Taylor (fractured eye socket) both sidelined for at least another week and Colin Slade on All Blacks duty, it will be Mo'unga's first start in the No 10 jersey this season.

Canterbury coach Scott Robertson believed Mo'unga would attract interest from Super Rugby sides if he kept putting in consistent performances.

His ability to cover both first-five and fullback, and his steady goal kicking ability were all major assets.

Mo'unga said he was hopeful he could secure a Super Rugby spot somewhere.

''I'd like to think so. I've just got to take care of playing good footy and the rest will take care of itself. Fingers crossed [I get a contract].''

Mo'unga, who is in second season of NPC rugby, will achieve his Canterbury blazer tomorrow for playing 12 games.

He burst on to the scene last year, starring in his first run-on game, where he scored 27 points against Manawatu.

Robertson said Mo'unga's development over the past 12 months had been pleasing.

The St Andrew's College product looked far more comfortable at NPC level and was beginning to take on greater responsibility leading the backline.

''Every time he's been given an opportunity he's taken it. When you name Richie Mo'unga now, people are like 'great'. It's not like, 'oh no'. It's shows how much work he's done,'' Robertson said.

''He's one of the most hard working guys we've got here.''

Having experienced campaigners such as skipper Willi Heinz, Adam Whitelock, Patrick Osborne and Taylor around him in the backline, made Mo'unga's job far easier.

He did not envisage too many problems switching into the playmaker's role against Otago.

Six-time defending champions Canterbury have been in destructive form during their opening three games, scoring a NPC-best 154 points and 20 tries.

Mo'unga, who played for the New Zealand under-20 side at the Junior World Cup in June, said there was a positive mindset in the Canterbury squad.

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They were determined to build on their promising start to the campaign against Otago, who sit atop the championship division.

''The way they do some of their plays and score tries, we've got to expect the unexpected,'' Mo'unga said.

''It's a fast track down there, played under the roof. It's going to be fast and physical.''

Matt Todd returns to the Canterbury team at openside flanker after being given a breather against Northland.

Heinz, Luke Whitelock and Osborne, who will play at fullback, also slot back into the starting lineup, having been on the bench last week.

Outside back Luteru Laulala - the younger brother of Canterbury prop, Nepo, and former All Black midfielder Casey Laulala - has been named in the reserves. The Samoan under-20 international will make his Canterbury debut if he takes the field.

Canterbury: Patrick Osborne, Rob Thompson, Jack Goodhue, Adam Whitelock, Milford Keresoma, Richie Mo'unga, Willi Heinz (c), Nasi Manu, Matt Todd, Luke Whitelock, Matt Symons, Scott Barrett, Nepo Laulala, Ben Funnell, Alex Hodgman. Reserves: Codie Taylor, Siate Tokolahi, Joel Everson, Tom Sanders, Mitchell Drummond, Luteru Laulala, Nathaniel Apa.

- The Press

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