Richie Mo’unga; the new ‘Big Stepper’ on the Rugby Scene

Richie Mo'unga; the new 'Big Stepper' on the Rugby Scene

By comparison, Richie Mo’unga is the new ‘Big Stepper’ on the Rugby Scene, with displays in Super Rugby shading competitions like the Premiership (for one).

That is not to say that none of the current crop of first five-eighths in the game are not as adept at stepping. It is just so obvious when you watch Mo’unga play.

His Crusaders team played at home for the first time since the Terror Attacks in Christchurch. And after a patchy 40 minutes, the home team defeated the ACT Brumbies 36-14. The current Super Rugby champions were successful, with Richie Mo’unga showing many subtle skills – including an impressive side-step, and turn of pace.

Richie Mo’unga; the new ‘Big Stepper’ on the Rugby Scene

His obvious skill as a first five is clear to see. Visible in most outings for his franchise, a clear weapon that the player pulls out on attack – his strengths are with ball in hand, supporting his flat passes and cross-field kicks.

Those past displays have seen him become the most obvious choice to back-up Beauden Barrett; even establishing more consistent performances than Damian McKenzie. So between those three stars, who is the ‘big stepper?’

If you watch closely, it is Mo’unga. He shows the lightness on his feet, to step off either foot, change his pace and use the ‘goose step’ to go around players in close contact. Barrett, on the other hand, has the vision that he utilizes angles and a huge amount of acceleration, to get past players.

McKenzie is another with vision. He often runs onto the ball at pace, with a swerve that eludes defence. He can look like a Ping Pong ball, bouncing away from tacklers. Less of a step, more of movement in-and-away, to destroy the opposition.

Those are just three examples, and between them, it is Mo’unga who will hold the ‘big stepper’ title which he has been demonstrating since 2016/2017. Seen below, playing for the Canterbury Mitre10 Cup side, before his amazing breakout 2017 Crusaders season.

Who else compares? The list

In a subjective comparison, Last Word on Rugby considers some other Super Rugby, Premiership, PRO14 and Top14 players. And this is where we invite readers feedback; comment below or join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

The current ‘big stepper’ comparisons:
  • Elton Jantjies (Lions/Springboks)
  • Quade Cooper (Rebels/former Wallaby)
  • Lima Sopoaga (Highlanders/Wasps/former All Black)
  • Nicolas Sanchez (Jaguares/Argentina)
  • Danny Cipriani (Gloucester/former England)
  • Marcus Smith (Harlequins)
  • Finn Russell (Racing 92/Scotland)
  • James O’Connor (Sale/former Wallaby)
  • Joey Carbery (Munster/Ireland)
  • Adam Hastings (Glasgow/Scotland)
  • Romain Ntamack (Toulouse/France)

Special mention: Semi Radradra, David Campese, Sinoti Sinoti (see below)

It is not to say that there are, or have been a number of tens who could not display that step. Often, the pivot is more prepared to set-up others, or make the high/positional kick. Still, some would point out many many more from the past, whose sheer ability to bedazzle the opposition are worthy of mention.

Past ‘big stepping’ first fives:

  • Dan Carter (Crusaders/All Blacks) *a player Richie Mo’unga idolized
  • Gareth Edwards (Wales/British and Irish Lions/Cardiff RFC)
  • Mark Ella (Wallabies/NSW)
  • Stephen Larkham (ACT Brumbies/Wallabies)
  • Barry John (Wales/B&I Lions)
  • Carlos Spencer (Blues/All Blacks)
As stated, this selection shows that even from the number ten position, many of the games very best, could also display their skillset. The best stepping players stand out from the crowd – and today, Richie Mo’unga is displaying all his ability for the Crusaders.


“Main photo credit”
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