Richie Mo'unga won't be released to play for Canterbury

Richie Mo'unga won't be released to play for Canterbury

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen on Thursday confirmed that Richie Mo'unga, who was called into the squad as injury cover ahead of Saturday night's third Bledisloe Cup test, would not return to Christchurch to play for the red and blacks. 

The All Blacks, who have opted to start Lima Sopoaga and for fullback Damian McKenzie to provide first-five cover in Beauden Barrett's concussion forced absence, indicated earlier in the week Mo'unga would be released if he didn't make the match-day 23.

Richie Mo'unga is the leading points scorer (135) in this year's Mitre 10 Cup. However, the 23-year-old will now remain with the team in case Sopoaga or McKenzie go down before the All Blacks attempt to whitewash the Wallabies 3-0. 

"He is going to stay because Beauden [Barrett] is going to go home. We will need some back-up, so we have to revise the plan of sending Richie home. Because Beauden is going home instead," Hansen said. 

Brett Cameron is expected to start at No 10 if Canterbury can't call upon Richie Mo'unga on Saturday.

Confirmation Mo'unga won't be released at least allows Canterbury coach Glenn Delaney to move forward with certainty that rookie Brett Cameron will wear the No 10 jersey.

While Mo'unga will no doubt get plenty from spending a week with the All Blacks, North Harbour are clearly the big winners from his unavailability. 

They'll relish the chance to get a crack at the reigning champions without their gun pivot, who has carried his outstanding Super Rugby form into the domestic season.

Delaney will on Friday name his team to play North Harbour at AMI Stadium, and said rookie wing Josh McKay, who played most of his schoolboy rugby for Christchurch Boys' High School at first-five eighth, and midfielder Tim Bateman will cover Cameron.

"When we planned our squad out, we looked at all the contingencies and we're pretty comfortable," Delaney said. 

"[Brett] has had his little foot in the water and he's been in our environment for a season and understands what it's all about, knows how it works. He'll be just fine." 

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