New Zealand fly-half Richie Mo’unga has praised the role former coach Ronan O’Gara played in his development during the Cork man’s time with the Crusaders.
O’Gara spent two seasons as backs coach with the New Zealand side, prior to his move to Top 14 side La Rochelle, and had a pivotal role in the side securing back-to-back Super Rugby titles.
There are 13 current or former Crusaders players in the All Blacks World Cup squad, many of whom O’Gara worked with on a daily basis including Jack Goodhue, George Bridge Sevu Reece and Mo’unga.
Mo’unga is once again named in the number 10 jersey for Steve Hansen’s side for their World Cup quarter-final clash with Ireland with Beauden Barrett restored at full-back.
The 25-year-old was full of praise for former Ireland and Munster fly-half O’Gara when he name was mentioned at a press conference on Wednesday, though he admitted to having difficulties with his accent.
“ROG has been awesome. He’s still very hard to understand, so I take very little from our conversations, but he’s very determined, like all Irish are, very driven, and that gives me a little insight into what the Irish are like.
“This week is going to be a very tough test. They’re going to come all guns blazing.”
Mo’unga also stated that having his Crusaders teammates alongside him in a pivotal World Cup game is a “special moment”.
“I had a joke with Sevu about who would have thought at the start of this year we’d be here together, let alone all three of us. These are very special moments. To go even deeper, our families are so proud of us and we want to make them proud.
“My memories of the All Blacks started from Jonah Lomu, looking up to the great 10s, and what happened in 2011. As a 10 myself, I thought, ‘man, if only I was a bit older, I might have got the call-up’.”
The former All Black, who passed away in 2015, clearly had a major impact on a young Mo’unga and he hopes he can also inspire young children.
“He inspired a lot of young Kiwis and I’ve no doubt he inspired a lot of the world in terms of rugby. As All Blacks, it means a lot to us if we can inspire people and inspire young Kiwis.
“That’s how my love of the game grew. He was able to do things I thought people could never do. The inspiration and my love for the game grew within me and grew my desire to be an All Black.”