All Blacks press conference with Ian Foster, Jason Ryan and Richie Mo’unga. Video / Mark Mitchell
Richie Mo’unga made it absolutely clear that he backs under-fire All Blacks coach Ian Foster, saying he is “the right man for the job”.
Speaking to media on Tuesday as the All Blacks prepare for two big tests in South Africa, Mo’unga admitted the team simply haven’t been good enough following their historic series loss to Ireland.
“[We’re under] no illusions, it wasn’t good enough against Ireland,” the first-five said. “But we’re really looking forward to the opportunity to right a few wrongs and to be better because we know we’re capable. And we need to make a statement about who we are as All Blacks and the standard that comes with.”
But he was unflinching when it came to his head coach, adding that he was excited to work even closer with Foster, who will be taking the reins of the All Blacks attack following Brad Mooar’s exit.
“Fozzie is the man for the job,” Mo’unga said. “I 100 per cent back Fozzie because of his coaching ability. And I think now he’ll have a more hands-on role with the backs and with attack.
“I’ve had that sort of taste early on in my All Blacks career and was able to gain so much knowledge and had wow moments out on the field when he was coaching. It’s good to see that happen again the last couple of days and the direction this team is going is just really exciting.”
It’s been a time of soul searching for the All Blacks, especially for the senior playing group.
Mo’unga admitted being in the All Blacks environment lately has felt different and confirmed tough conversations were had between the senior players behind closed doors.
“Just where we’re at as a team and the current situation,” he said when asked about the senior players meeting. “And to work out what’s best and the priorities for the coming tests against South Africa.
“It’s about for us as leaders what we need to do on the field and that’s perform better. We’re not pointing at anyone else’s role but ourselves. We’re looking in the mirror and had to be honest with ourselves and the performances, and it’s not good enough. But we know the opportunities that lie ahead and where we can take this team.”
The other challenge has been blocking out the noise around the All Blacks from an expectant New Zealand public, and Mo’unga says the team is excited to not only prove the doubters wrong but also do it for themselves.
“What an awesome opportunity. We really see the opportunity being at the end of this year, at the end of England, looking at this year and the journey we’ve been on. And how cool it would be to see how we turned [it] around.
“To have a lot of people say what they have said about our team, to question us as All Blacks, and just really to prove them wrong. Not only that, but to prove to each other what we’re capable of and who we are as All Blacks.
“But really we just understand that people care about the All Blacks. Everyone wants the All Blacks to do well. As All Blacks we’ve got to be better at our job and not take any of that [noise] into consideration but just be better for ourselves and for the All Blacks.”
For now, Mo’unga says he’s focused on what he says might be the toughest test in rugby: playing the world champion Springboks on their home turf.
“It’s tough, it’s really tough. We haven’t played there in a while. [They’re] a team with so much confidence after their win against Wales; and the fans and how hostile it can be. But what a challenge for us, is just the way I look at it. I don’t see it any other way than this opportunity being the biggest opportunity against the toughest team in the toughest place to play footy. Really looking forward to it.”