Mo'unga over Barrett: Why the Wallabies think Crusaders champion will wear prized All Blacks 10 jersey

International
by Christy Doran

Wallabies assistant coach Scott Wisemantel says they are preparing for Richie Mo'unga to wear the No.10 jersey for the Bledisloe Cup opener at Wellington's Sky Stadium on October 11.

Just like in 2019, who wears the prized 10 jersey is the major talking point - on the field at least - with the All Blacks.

Unlike the Wallabies who have four candidates gunning for the fly-half position, it's a toss up between Mo'unga - the four time Super Rugby winner with the Crusaders - and two-time World Rugby Player of the Year, Beauden Barrett.

In 2019, Mo'unga predominantly occupied the position in Steve Hansen's last year, with Barrett shifted to fullback.

But the combination never quite clicked and the All Blacks' semi-final exit only added to the debate over who should have been pulling the strings.

Now Ian Foster - the All Blacks' long-time attack assistant under Hansen - has the top job and, once again, the 10 jersey continues to be hotly debated.

But Wisemantel, who joined the Wallabies after previously serving as Eddie Jones' attack coach with England and Japan, believes the answer is simple.

"Mo'unga," Wisemantel responded in one word to New Zealand reporter Richard Knowler when asked who they thought would wear the 10 jersey.

Why?

"Richard, have you watch the Super Rugby Aotearoa? He's been awesome." 

If, indeed, the 26-year-old continues to don the No.10 jersey, it will mean Barrett will be up against his younger brother Jordie, who had a standout year for the Hurricanes, for the No.15 jersey.

Elsewhere, the All Blacks are expected to have a settled look to their side.

Aaron Smith is expected to play halfback after an outstanding Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign.

All Blacks regulars Anton Lienert-Brown and Jack Goodhue are likely to form the midfield pairing, while Crusaders flyers Sevu Reece and George Bridge are the front-runners for the wing spots with Caleb Clarke, Will Jordan and Rieko Ioane putting on pressure.

The familiar faces are in stark contrast to the Wallabies, who have a completely new coaching structure and 16 uncapped players in their 44-person squad.

Wisemantel said that he had a strong idea of the Wallabies team he wanted, but wasn't giving anything away about what that would like.

"I've got a backline in my head, but whether it's the same backline as Dave (Rennie) and Tatsie (Matt Taylor) and Geoff (Parling), that's for debate, and that's a nightly debate that we're having at the moment, so it brings an edge to training, which is good and that's what we want," Wisemantel said.

There's plenty of intrigue around how the Wallabies will build under Rennie's watch.

Last month rugby pundit Rod Kafer said Rennie's coaching structure was the best Wallabies set-up since Jones' team in the early 2000s.

But Wisemantel, who joined England in the middle of 2018 and had Jones' side scoring more tries inside the opening five minutes of matches than any tier-one side, cautioned against thinking the Wallabies would be instantly able to turn it on and climb their way up the World Rugby rankings from seventh.

"They're different teams in so far as that English team had been together for a fair while and fairly well established, we're probably at a different (stage)," Wisemantel said.

"New coaching staff, new systems, new players, our ambition is to do the same thing, I can openly state that, that's the ambition, whether we can do it in the short-term I don't know. But very different teams, you look at the profiles, totally different sides."

Asked about the differences between Jones' and Rennie's coaching style, Wisemantel added that it had been an eye-opening experience to work with the two-time winning Super Rugby coach.

"It's very different. It's different. I've worked with Eddie a lot. I'm getting to know Dave, I've known Dave for a while but getting to know him as far as a working relationship," he said.

"It's been really enlightening, it's been great, it's been really good because you get the insights into how the the Kiwis think, which has been brilliant. So there's some subtle differences to how you do things, but I'm enjoying it."