'He'll take it with both hands' - Crusaders' Samu backs Richie Mo'unga over Beauden Barrett for All Blacks first-five berth

Wallabies and Crusaders flanker Pete Samu is backing Richie Mo'unga ahead of Beauden Barrett and Damian McKenzie to wear the All Blacks' number 10 jersey for the Bledisloe Cup opener in Sydney next week.

After leading the Crusaders to this year's Super Rugby title, Mo'unga easily stands above the pack as New Zealand's in form first-five, however All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has thrown his support firmly behind current World Rugby Player of the Year, Barrett.

Speaking to Rugby.com.au though, recent Wallabies debutant Samu says that his Crusaders teammate warrants selection at the front of the first-five queue.

"He's been playing some outstanding footy and I think it will be deserving [for] him to be starting in that 10 jersey for that first Test," he said.

Assistant coach Ian Foster said while management sees Mo'unga as a first-five, he also has the skills for fullback. Source: 1 NEWS

"It would be also special to run up against him if I get the chance."

Samu also praised Mo'unga's ability to perform under pressure, exemplified by his man of the match performance in the Super Rugby final against the Lions last week.

"I think when it comes to big games he goes up another couple of levels and he's a real good leader as well. I think put him in any situation and he'll take it with both hands.

Mo'unga has been the shining light in another title winning Crusaders season. Source: 1 NEWS

"He's quite unpredictable, he's got some crazy feet and he's got a good pass on him, maybe if we shut down his time and space we might do alright."

The All Blacks' side to take on the Wallabies in Sydney will be named next week.

The All Blacks coach agrees Mo’unga is a special talent, but says Beauden Barrett has experience over him. Source: 1 NEWS

Michael Hooper rejects overseas clubs, signs $6.7m deal with Rugby Australia

Rugby Australia are set to announce Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper has signed a five-year deal that will take him through to the end of 2023.

Rugby Australia have called a press conference for 1pm in Sydney this afternoon to unveil the contract extension, reported by News Corp to be worth close to $6 million.

The new deal will mean the 26-year-old NSW captain will be available to lead Australia at the next two World Cup tournaments, adding to his 82 Tests.

Wallabies' Michael Hooper gestures to the crowd after Australia wins the match 29-15.
Wallabies' Michael Hooper gestures to the crowd after Australia wins the match 29-15. Source: Associated Press



Wallabies' Samu relishing 'pretty special' clash with Crusaders teammates

The banter has already started between Wallabies backrower Pete Samu and some of the Crusaders teammates he could be lining up against in just more than a week.

Samu, who earned his first three Test caps off the bench in June, was part of the Crusaders squad that last weekend clinched back-to-back Super Rugby titles.

The 26-year-old forward also came off the pine for the Crusaders two final wins over the Lions in 2017 and 18, but will play for the Brumbies next year.

He arrived back in Australia on Wednesday and headed to the Wallabies camp at Cessnock in the Hunter region of NSW.

Friends will quickly become foes if Samu makes the 23 for Australia's first Bledisloe cup and Rugby Championship match of the season on Saturday week in Sydney.

The All Blacks squad off 33 for the Rugby Championship named on Monday included ten Crusaders.

"I gave them a bit of chat before I left," Samu said.

"But it will be quite good, a good Test and I told them it will be just like a Thursday training out there seeing them all.

"But it will be pretty good, pretty special as well."

Samu was only cleared by New Zealand Rugby to join Australia less than a week before the start of the three-Test home series against Ireland.

"I think coming over now post-Super, I know a lot from being in those June Tests, so it's not really too bad transitioning from there," Samu said.

After playing in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney and a stint in England, Samu's career took off in New Zealand and he attracted the attention of Wallabies' coach Michael Cheika through his efforts for the Crusaders.

"It definitely feels like a dream, back-to back champions," Samu said.

"It's pretty special playing with a good bunch of boys back there and some lifelong friends that I made over there, but it's good to finish there on a high."

Cheika will on Sunday name a reduced squad, which will be based in Sydney in the lead-up to the following Saturday's game at ANZ Stadium.

Pete Samu, Ryan Crotty and Seta Tamanivalu. Crusaders v Lions, Super Rugby Final, AMI Stadium, Christchurch, New Zealand. 4 August 2018. Copyright Image: www.photosport.nz
Crusaders players Pete Samu, Ryan Crotty and Seta Tamanivalu embrace after winning the 2018 Super Rugby final against the Lions at AMI Stadium in Christchurch. Source: Photosport