Call me crazy but I would like to see the All Blacks combine Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett in the five-eighths before the World Cup in Japan.
Both were in dazzling form during the Crusaders 30-26 Super Rugby semi-final thriller against the Hurricanes in Christchurch on Saturday night when Barrett sharpened his passing during the Canes storming second half finish.
Renowned for his running game, he made 21 runs for 59 metres and beat six defenders compared with Mo’unga’s 12 runs for 96m in which he beat five.
Starting both in the number 10 and 12 jerseys in the rugby championship pre-World Cup would provide so many more attacking options although it would be at the cost of losing midfield muscle.
It’s a risk selectors Steve Hansen, Ian Foster and Grant Fox are unlikely to take so late in the piece especially with Sonny Bill Williams, Ryan Crotty, Jack Goodhew, Anton Lienert-Brown and Ngani Laumape all striving for midfield berths.
Nevertheless it is a shame to waste a player of Mo’unga’s class on the bench for three-quarters of the game before bringing him on and moving Barrett to fullback where his brother Jordie and Ben Smith also have form.
You could say the same about dynamic No 7 Ardie Savea who is renowned for his running game but has also made far more turnovers than any other forward in the Super championship.
Still one has to admire the courage of a gutsy Sam Cane whose quick return to form after a long absence because of a broken neck was remarkable.
Another who has hit his straps with some electrifying performances since his return has been speedy Hurricanes hooker Dane Coles who has regained top status ahead of lively Codie Taylor.
The All Blacks pride themselves with the impact their players make off the bench from where fiercely competitive halfback PJ Perenara is also a major contributor.
Although Perenara’s pass isn’t as sharp as Aaron Smith’s, his all-round game and hustle has been outstanding. He was unlucky to have been called for a knock-on in the dying minute of the semi-final when Sam Whitelock should have been pinged for a penalty that could have won the Canes the game.
Perenara scored one of the Canes four tries with Laumape (2) and Ben Lam grabbing the others.
Electrifying right wing Sevu Reece scored two beauties for the Crusaders with Mo’unga adding another and scoring 15 points for a 100 per cent success rate with the boot.
Reece is also pushing his claims for an All Black jersey, having scored his first try from a Crotty cross-kick and his second with a goosestep following a huge Braydon Ennor skip pass.
He also had a hand in Mo’unga’s when gathering the first-five’s perfect chip kick, drawing the final defender and passing to him.
While it was once again the backs that starred, a huge factor in the Hurricanes’ titanic comeback was the refusal of their tenacious forwards to bow to the All Blacks studded Crusaders pack.
Meanwhile having thrashed the Brumbies 39-7 (five tries to one) at home, the impressive Jaguares will hope to make history by winning the final against the Crusaders following a 17-hour flight to Christchurch.
- Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer