WELLINGTON, April 26 (Reuters) - All Blacks flyhalf Richie Mo’unga has extended his national contract to 2022 in a coup for New Zealand rugby.
The deal will also keep Beauden Barrett’s All Blacks understudy at Super Rugby’s double-defending champion Canterbury Crusaders until 2022.
“I’m really fortunate to have had some amazing opportunities with Canterbury, the Crusaders, and the All Blacks, and I feel there is still plenty I want to achieve in New Zealand rugby, which was a huge motivation for me to re-commit,” the 24-year-old said in a New Zealand Rugby media release on Friday.
“I want to keep striving to be the best I can be, which ultimately is why I’ve made the decision to stay in this environment.”
Mo’unga was instrumental in the Crusaders’ successful title defence last year, piling pressure on Barrett’s hold over the All Blacks’ number 10 jersey.
After making his test debut off the bench against France in Dunedin last year, Mo’unga started at flyhalf in wins against Argentina and Japan.
Fast, skilled and highly versatile, Mo’unga has also played at fullback and on the wing in his nine tests to date and is expected to be picked in Steve Hansen’s squad for the World Cup in Japan.
“He is developing into a very good rugby player and it’s great that he’s staying, as he is only going to get better and better,” said Hansen.
“He made a great start last year in his first All Blacks season and we look forward to him going to an even higher level this year. It’ll be exciting to watch just how far he can go.”
Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Rory Carroll