Richie Mo'unga's big warning to New Zealand Rugby
SPOTLIGHT: Japan-bound All Blacks flyhalf Richie Mo’unga warned Friday that New Zealand rugby faces a chronic talent drain unless authorities allow overseas-based players to represent their country.
Mo’unga has signed a three-year deal with Toshiba Brave Lupus and will join the Japanese side after playing for the All Blacks at the World Cup in France this year.
The move will make him ineligible to play for the All Blacks because governing body New Zealand Rugby only selects players who are based at home.
Mo’unga will be joined at Toshiba next year by current All Blacks teammate Shannon Frizell and he believes New Zealand must change its approach with more and more players being lured overseas.
“New Zealand are going to have to adapt a lot quicker, otherwise you’re going to see players leave a lot earlier and not be able to represent their country,” the 28-year-old told reporters in Tokyo after being introduced by Toshiba.
“We’ve seen a number of New Zealanders coming over to Japan, more and more every year.
“If New Zealand don’t adapt to that sooner or later, I think you’ll see a drop in the standard of New Zealand rugby.”
‘Make some good coin’
Several All Blacks players including star playmaker Beauden Barrett have joined Japanese clubs on short-term deals in recent years.
Mo’unga is one of the first to move on a multi-year deal and he thinks other New Zealanders will be tempted to move overseas at a younger age.
“There’s a mix of players wanting to represent their country and have a good crack at the international level, but they’re also left with a decision around life after footy, understanding that there’s not a big period of time that you actually do play rugby,” he said.
“You come over here to make some good coin. It’s important for them and their families also.”
Mo’unga sits seventh on Super Rugby’s all-time scorer list with 1,010 points for the Crusaders and has tallied 370 points in 44 Tests for the All Blacks since making his debut in 2018.
He will be in his 30s by the time he completes his contract with Toshiba but he said he has not shut the door on his All Blacks career just yet.
“Three years allows me both the best chance to succeed with Toshiba, but at the end, decide where things are at and it leaves an opportunity to possibly come back for the All Blacks again,” he said.
Mo’unga insisted that he was not thinking about playing in Japan just yet, and he is fully focused on helping the All Blacks win a record fourth world title in France.
“I can never look too far or too wide about what’s happening – my job is to focus on wanting to play each week for the All Blacks, if I make the team,” he said.
“That will always be my focus. My job is to focus on me and my performance and to control what I can control.”