All Blacks coach Ian Foster has dismissed any notion influential first-five Richie Mo’unga is carrying an injury, after he was named at No.10 for Sunday’s (NZ time) Rugby World Cup final against South Africa.
Mo’unga was reportedly in serious doubt for the tournament final, with an injury suffered in training, but has been named to start in his final test, before taking up a three-year deal with Toshiba from 2024.
As Foster fronted media after naming his squad, the question over Mo’unga’s fitness raised an eyebrow.
“I read that,” began Foster. “I was very interested, because I hadn’t heard it from my own medical staff.
“I don’t know where that came from, he’s good.”
Injury to Mo’unga would have been a major blow for the All Blacks, who would have to shoehorn either Beauden Barrett or Damian McKenzie into the crucial No.10 jersey.
Now, he’ll line up opposite South Africa’s Handre Pollard, who kicked his side to victory in last week’s semi-final against England.
Tactically, the two sides are poles apart before Sunday’s decider.
While the All Blacks gameplan will look to build on running the ball and attacking where they can, South Africa’s forward-oriented style will look to suffocate their opponents.
The Springboks have named seven forwards on their bench, not hiding their intention to let their physicality have the biggest say on the result.
The battle between Mo’unga and Pollard will be a vital match-up, but Foster says it’s up to the rest of the team to allow him to play the game that will best benefit the All Blacks.
“Tens are key in big games, they always are,” he continued. “We like to take the pressure off one person by the people in front of him doing a really good job, by our nine giving great service and having great communication from the outside.
“That’s probably the key when you’re playing South Africa. There’s a lot of different pictures you see outside your 10.
“The comms we get from outside is something we’ve been working on, but Richie’s in a great spot.
“He’s leading the team well from that 10 jersey. He’s got a smile on his face and is uninjured.”
Join Newshub at 8am Sunday for live updates of the All Blacks v Springboks World Cup final