Crusaders coy about Mo'unga's availability
INTERVIEW: Crusaders coach Scott Robertson has provided an update on Richie Mo’unga’s availability for the beginning of next year’s Super Rugby Pacific campaign.
Last month, it was reported that Mo’unga is expected to miss as many as six of the revamped competition’s opening rounds due to a clause in his contract that allows him to sit out the first few weeks of Super Rugby Pacific.
Conversely, Mo’unga also has the option not to sit out any of the Crusaders’ first few matches, but whether or not he will be out of action remains to be seen.
Speaking to media on Tuesday, Robertson said the Christchurch-based franchise is awaiting the revised draw for next year’s competition amid Covid-19 travel restrictions between New Zealand and Australia.
The draw for the inaugural edition of Super Rugby Pacific was released last month, but the arrangement of fixtures is being adjusted in the wake of the New Zealand Government’s fresh border restrictions, which will come into effect next year.
As such, any confirmation about Mo’unga’s availability for the Crusaders has been put on hold, but Robertson revealed he has spoken to all of his squad’s All Blacks since their return from Europe three weeks ago.
“We’re going to wait until the draw’s finalised before we make a decision on that [Mo’unga’s absence from Super Rugby],” Robertson said.
“But, yeah, I’ve talked to pretty much all of them [the All Blacks in his side] and connected in and they’re just happy to be home and back to life to normal.”
Of the Crusaders who toured with the All Blacks to the northern hemisphere – Mo’unga, Sam Whitelock, Will Jordan, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody, Sevu Reece, David Havili, Ethan Blackadder, George Bridge, Braydon Ennor and George Bower – none have yet reported for pre-season training.
Those 11 players aren’t expected to do so until early February, forcing Robertson to fill holes in his roster for the current pre-season programme that will pause shortly before Christmas and resume early next month.
In doing so, the serial title-winning coach has brought in an array of youngsters and replacement players to help his side with their preparation for the campaign.
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One player who won’t be involved in those preparations, though, is Los Pumas star Pablo Matera, who was introduced to his new teammates after recently arriving in Christchurch from Paris via Argentina.
Matera was also unveiled to media, eight months after it was announced he would join the franchise, but Robertson has moved to restrict the star loose forward’s training output in the early days of his time with the Crusaders.
“We’ve got a lot of replacement players, a lot of the young first-year players, so no All Blacks as you know, but he [Matera] will come in for lunch today and just meet a few of the names,” Robertson said.
“It’s quite intimidating when you get 60 or 70 names chucked at you pretty quickly, so it’s just one of those slow builds and he’ll come in for lunch and then, 6th of January, he’ll be in full-time with the rest of us.
“Just give him time to freshen up. He’s been on tour for a little bit, been overseas for a season, so state of mind’s really important for him in the New Year.”
By Alex McLeod, RugbyPass