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PLAYER PROFILE #JWC2014: Richard Mo'unga

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allblacks.com     19 May 2014     Getty Images

Driven by his disappointment in missing out on the New Zealand Secondary Schools team, and the back-up side, the New Zealand Schools Barbarians, in 2012, Mo'unga set his sights on this year's Under-20 tournament as compensation while also studying applied management at the Canterbury Polytechnic Institute of Technology.

Refusing to be put off by missing the Schools side from the St Andrews College 1st XV that he captained, he decided he needed to work harder to achieve his goals.

Central to his plan was finding a route to play premier grade rugby in Christchurch and while most clubs he talked to wanted to play him in their Colts side, he forsook his long-standing Marist Albion club to play senior with the Linwood side.

"It was the club farthest away from home, and on the other side of Christchurch, but Scotty Hansen was coach, and he was also the assistant backs coach with the ITM Canterbury side.

"We talked through what goals I had in the short term and the longer term. And the longer term was making the Under-20 side this year and beyond that to gain a place in the Canterbury side," he said.

However, a lot happened in Christchurch rugby in 2013 and with injuries Mo'unga found himself promoted to the ITM Cup side in his first senior season.

He made eight appearances and famously in his first starting effort, against Manawatu, he scored a try, kicked eight conversions and two penalty goals for a 27-point haul.

"I felt 2013 had to be something of a big year having come to senior rugby straight out of school. But I trained hard and played hard because I wanted prove people wrong while also enjoying my football," he said.

His first five run-on appearances for Canterbury were at fullback, something that may prove useful in the world championship as the competition will be hot for first five-eighths with captain Simon Hickey filling that role.

"I realise that there will be pressure in that position but I just want to push Simon hard and to try and bring the best out of him," he said.

While playing at home meant there would be some extra pressure on the side, he said, he thought the team was ready to cope with that. Being at home would also have some advantages and it was a good opportunity for families who might nototherwise have the chance to see the players in action in the tournament.