Richie Mo'unga lauds 'unreal' Fijian experience, supports more Pacific Super Rugby

Fijian Crusaders fans on hand in Suva Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Crusaders fly-half Richie Mo'unga has backed calls for more Super Rugby games to be played in the Pacific Islands having sampled the "unreal" experience in Fiji last weekend.

Mo'unga's Crusaders defeated the Chiefs 31-24 in a heart-stopping 80-minute classic in Suva, the teams playing in front of a packed house that provided easily the best atmosphere of any Super Rugby clash this season - and perhaps even the best atmosphere since the teams played each other in Fiji last year.

The win extended the Crusaders' unbeaten run to 12 games, but the scope of the "unreal" Fijian experience was the major takeaway for the Mo'unga even though he enjoyed a standout game in general play and from the kicking tee.

"The Fijians, they were vocal and they had chants going, and to play over there in Fiji, and to give people an experience maybe they haven't had before, it's quite humbling," Mo'unga told ESPN.

"And to be in their country, we've got a few Fijians in our team, so for them to take us back home to where they grew up ... it meant a lot to them. So to be able to put in a performance like that and to give the fans something to cheer about, it was pretty cool.

"But the experience was unreal. It was hot. It was muggy; it was dry but the ball was just soaking wet from everyone's sweat. It was tough. And it was almost like playing at altitude with how hot it was. It was a great experience, and one I probably won't forget for a long time."

Writing in his weekly column for ESPN, former All Blacks prop Craig Dowd called for other New Zealand teams to investigate taking a game in the Pacific Islands; the Blues will face the Reds in Samoa in Round 15.

Mo'unga echoed Dowd's sentiments, saying he would like to see more Super Rugby in the Islands, but extended the proposal beyond New Zealand's five franchises to the wider competition. In a season when crowds are well down, and there is very little positive press around Super Rugby, particularly in Australia, it's an idea that seems to have plenty of merit.

"There's a lot of Pacific Islanders in each of the teams, and so to be able to take a game to Tonga or Samoa, or even back to Fiji again, it's would be awesome," he told ESPN. "It would be special for the people over in the Islands as well experiencing such a thing. Obviously there's are a lot of logistics to it and a lot of things need to get done before something like that can happen, but it's a great idea."

Mo'unga has both Samoan and Tongan heritage, despite being born in New Zealand, and the personal appeal of taking a game to one of the other Islands is strong having witnessed the experience of Fijian teammate Seta Tamanivalu in Suva last week.

"He was quite busy during the week and he had a lot of stuff on with promos and going back to his old school and seeing his family and relatives," Mo'unga said of Tamanivalu.

"He was pretty emotional. This game meant a lot to him. He was playing in his hometown and also because he was playing against the team he was playing with last year. It meant a lot to him. It was personal in a lot of different ways, so to be able to be there with him and to see him go through the week it was pretty special."