Opinion: An Embarrassment of Riches

Opinion: Opinion: An Embarrassment of Riches

Richie Mo'unga's stellar Super Rugby season has left some pundits arguing for the Crusaders man to be handed a go as the All Black's starting 10. Darry Worthington explains why it's a justifiable question.

While it seems absurd to question the presence of multiple Word Rugby Player of the Year winner, Beauden Barrett, in an All Black starting XV his spot in Steve Hansen's run-on side doesn't seem as secure as it was 12 months ago. Well, maybe not in the New Zealand coach's mind but certainly among a group of rugby pundits, who think Crusaders pivot, Richie Mo'unga, should be given a chance in the famous All black ten jumper.
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Hasen has come out and backed the mercurial Hurricanes man while also assuring Richie Mou'unga that his time will come. Hansen stated "We have to build slowly with Richie and build his experience. But in the meantime, we've got a player in Beauden who has been the world's best player the last two years. So we won't be in any rush to shift him'.

The New Zealand mentor isn't the only one in Barrett's corner with All Black and Crusaders legend Dan Carter backing Beauden. "It’s obviously hotly debated at the moment and credit to Richie Mo’unga for putting his hand up over a fantastic season,” said Carter, before adding “It’s hard to go past what Beauden’s achieved over the last couple of years. A lot of the All Blacks’ success has come because of his performances. He’s a leader of the team now.”

Both men bring up some valid points. I mean Barrett turns 28 next year. He's a senior member of this backline, and he's produced the goods on the international stage year in and year out. So why is their this clamour to replace him?

The aforementioned Carter could probably spread some light on this if a journalist worded the question in the right way. If you had to ask Carter how he usurped Carlos Spencer to the All Black 10 jersey back in 2004, and he answered honestly, he'd let slip that it was his goal-kicking capabilities that got him the gig.

Spencer was 28 at that point. The same age that Barrett will soon be. Much like Barrett, Spencer wasn't as reliable a goalkicker as his competitor and was capable of throwing a loose pass or two as he did during the 2003 World Cup quarter-final against Australia. And that is why the prospect of Richie Mo'unga taking over from Beauden Barrett has become a rather popular debate in pubs and rugby clubs across the globe. You've got a mercurial magician versus devastatingly talented all-rounder. This really is the whole Carter versus Spencer storyline playing out again.

The current Crusaders fly-half is strikingly similar to his predecessor at the club, Carter. Like the All Black legend, Mo'unga is a scarily accurate goal-kicker. He produced a 77.78% strike record in Super Rugby this year, which is not bad going considering he played the majority of his games in New Zealand where the weather can make goal kicking a lot tougher.

Strangely enough, Barrett actually had a better record than Mo'unga this Super Rugby season and ended the campaign with an 82.35% success rate. These stats are slightly deceiving however as Beauden shared the kicking duties with younger brother Jordie, the latter taking the majority of the kicks from outside the opposition 40-metre line.

While Mo'unga isn't exactly Francois Steyn, he is capable of banging them over from 43 metres out. Something which Barret struggles with. But it's not really the extra distance that gives the former the advantage from the tee. It's Mo'unga's ability to consistently deliver.

Barrett has endured many an off day with the boot. When New Zealand met Argentina in the 2017 Rugby Championship, the Hurricanes talisman missed three very kickable goals in succession before handing the kicking duties over to Lima Sopoaga. He also struggled in the second and third Tests during the British and Irish Lions tour last year. Which, in my opinion, cost the All Blacks that series.

He's also had some iffy displays for the Hurricanes over the years and I can recall him missing a kick or two from just to the right of the poles and less than 20 metres out.

Mo'unga doesn't seem to make these sorts of mistakes. He's also not a goal-kicker who is going to miss three easy kicks in a row. Factor in how good he has been with ball-in-hand this season - his side step is one of the most electric in the game - and the argument for the Crusaders man to usurp 'King Barrett' to the thrown doesn't seem as ludicrous as it would have a year ago.

Written by Darry Worthington for Hollywoodbets

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