Beauden Barett vs Ritchie Mounga - Who's the better no.10?
The opening round of the 2019 Rugby Championships left plenty of questions for the All Blacks coaching staff, as the Springboks scrambled to a 16-16 draw, in the dying moments in Wellington.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is struggling to get the best out of the side with Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo'unga in the starting XV. Both men have compelling cases as the starting number 10 for the current World Cup holders.
The All Blacks aren’t the first team to encounter this problem, with the Wallabies having failed to unlock the potential of a Hooper-Pocock partnership.
While Hansen and his brains-trust will be putting the final touches to their preparations for the first Bledisloe Test Match to be played at Optus Stadium in Perth, we thought we’d settle the flyhalf debate for the All Blacks.
The case for Richie Mo'unga
Few would argue that Mo’unga is the Stuart MacGill of this All Blacks generation. MacGill was an Aussie leg-spinner who lived in the shadow of Shane Warne in his heyday. The Crusaders flyhalf has simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time. In 10 Test matches, starting three of these, Mo’unga has rarely put a foot wrong on the field.
The Crusaders playmaker comes into World Cup calculations for the All Blacks on the back of another stellar year for the Crusaders. While Barret may have led the Hurricanes to the 2016 Super Rugby title, Mo’unga has claimed the last three Super Rugby titles with the Crusaders. Mo’unga played 15 Super Rugby matches in 2019, crossing for seven tries and finishing second in points scored with 168 points.
Mo’unga’s goal kicking will be invaluable come finals time in the World Cup. Barrett has been prone to missing more than a few crucial kicks in the last few seasons and Mo’unga’s boot could decide a third potential World Cup title for the All Blacks.
A straight swap of Mo’unga for Barrett would mean that Steve Hansen could leave Ben Smith in his preferred fullback spot.
Beauden Barrett – The Incumbent
You have to take your hat off to Steve Hansen, having the courage to shift the two-time player of the year to fullback. With the exception of Johnny Sexton, Barret has been the form No.10 in world rugby for some time now.
The Hurricanes flyhalf is without peer and the performance against the Springboks left no doubt that the duel playmaker system is still a work in progress. Barrett was the All Blacks' best player against the Springboks, but his move to fullback had a domino effect on the side.
Barrett’s move to fullback then forces Ben Smith to pushed out to the right wing, not an ideal spot for the best fullback in world rugby. Smith struggled to have the same impact and questions need to be asked if this is the best move going forward into a World Cup.
While Mo’unga’s star is on the rise, expect Hansen to go with his trusted combinations in the heat of World Cup finals battle in Japan.