New Zealand will soon lose a star playmaker, as well as an important member of the pack, as the exodus to Japan’s League One continues.
All Blacks playmaker Richie Mo’unga announced Monday he will take up what is believed to be a very lucrative three-year Japan club deal after next year’s Rugby World Cup, potentially ending his career in Tests and Super Rugby.
Mo’unga will be joined by fellow All Black Shannon Frizell at the Toshiba Brave Lupus in early 2024.
Both 28-year-olds will leave sizeable holes to fill after making regular Test appearances this year, although Mo’unga will be most keenly missed by New Zealand supporters.
His tactical acumen and accurate goal-kicking saw him overtake Beauden Barrett as the All Blacks’ first-choice flyhalf in recent years, tallying 370 points in 44 Tests since his debut in 2018.
Crusaders coach Scott Robertson described Mo’unga as “one of the most influential Super Rugby players ever” and a central part of the team’s streak of six successive titles since 2017.
Mo’unga said it will be difficult to leave the club after his ninth and final season next year.
“The Crusaders have been my life for ever, even before I joined the team it was my life, dreaming of being part of the family,” he said in a statement.
“Looking back at my time with the team since 2015, it makes me so grateful to be part of such a franchise, part of some really awesome memories, some great achievements and great moments, and to just meet some really special people.”
In 94 games for the Crusaders, Mo’unga has scored 1,010 points to sit seventh on Super Rugby’s all-time scorer list.
Robertson said his playmaker’s influence extended beyond raw points.
“Through his performances in the biggest games, the biggest moments –- he stood up,” Robertson said.
“He’s a special man, a local boy, pride of the community, and there’s no doubt about it –- Richie can play.
“When Richie is on, the team is on. He brings out the best from all the players. For me, he is one of the most influential Super Rugby players ever –- how he plays the game, his ability to score points consistently year after year in those crucial moments.”
Abrasive Tongan-born flanker Frizell has played 25 Tests since his 2018 debut, the same year he made his Super Rugby start with the Highlanders.
© Agence France-Presse
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