Saturday 16 December 2017

Crusaders' Richie Mo'unga expected to cause Lions problems

Richie Mo'unga has been tipped to emulate Dan Carter and sink the British and Irish Lions this weekend.

Crusaders assistant coach Leon MacDonald ranks half-back duo Owen Farrell and Conor Murray as "world class" ahead of hosting the British and Irish Lions on Saturday.

But MacDonald also rates Crusaders fly-half Mo'unga as a future All Black - and a 23-year-old meriting genuine comparison with New Zealand great Carter.

MacDonald helped the All Blacks stun the Lions in 2005 as Carter morphed into a global superstar, and backed Mo'unga to follow suit in Crusaders colours.

For MacDonald then, the fly-half with "ice cold veins" on display in Christchurch will not be Farrell.

"There's a lot of Dan Carter about Richie Mo'unga," said MacDonald, gearing up for Saturday's Lions clash at the AMI Stadium.

"Owen Farrell and Conor Murray are definitely very good players, they are world class.

"But very rarely do you see Richie rattled, if at all, at any level.

"He's pretty casual, he enjoys a laugh, he's a bit of a joker - and I think you need that temperament as a 10 because there's a lot of pressure.

"I watched the sailors (in the Americas Cup) this morning, and I saw ice cold veins under immense pressure - and that's Richie.

"He just doesn't seem to be phased, and for a young guy to control a team like the Crusaders, where there's a lot of big personalities, big strong men who play a lot of rugby, for a long period of time to have run the ship as confidently as he does, that's real credit to him.

"So he's got a big future ahead of him, and he's just starting to realise the potential that a lot of people saw in him when he was at school."

Carter scored two tries and racked up 33 points in a brutal second-Test performance in 2005, as the All Blacks battered the Lions 48-18 in Wellington to seal the series with a game to spare.

MacDonald had started at full-back in the opening Test that New Zealand won 21-3 in Christchurch, before starting on the bench for that series-sealing second clash some 12 years back.

The 39-year-old is now an integral part of the Crusaders machine that has powered to 14 consecutive victories from 14 Super Rugby matches this term.

Mo'unga has starred across that run, and already boasts 281 points from just 25 Super Rugby appearances.

While MacDonald is not suggesting Mo'unga will catapult his reputation into the stratosphere this weekend as did Carter 12 years ago, the 36-cap All Black does certainly believe the Crusaders' current general can hand his profile a significant boost.

Farrell's physical, skilful and mental steel have marked out England's Saracen as one of the Lions' stellar talents, setting up a mouthwatering clash with Mo'unga this weekend.

"There are a lot of similar attributes between Richie and Dan," said MacDonald, comparing Mo'unga to Carter.

"I was playing when Dan started, and they are similar.

"Richie's had a fantastic year for us, he bounces back well from injury, he's really resilient, he reviews his performances very harshly, he's very tough on himself and he always wants to be better but he still has that nice balance to his life and he doesn't let the pressure onto his shoulders.

"He's just going to get better and better and at some stage we'll see him in a black jersey.

"This weekend is a massive opportunity for our guys to face a Test team in our club colours.

"Young Stephen Perofeta at the Blues would have taken a massive amount from that on Wednesday. He wouldn't have experienced line speed like that before, and that's what you get in Test rugby.

"It's great for the development of our players coming through.

"It gives them a taste of what the best of the best is like in front of big crowds, and they get to do it in the comfort of their home jerseys in front of their home crowds. It's great experience."

Press Association

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