Crusaders downplay Richie Mo'unga's heavily strapped knee

Fans anxious at the sight of Richie Mo’unga’s heavily strapped left-knee need not worry.

The Crusaders’ pivot caught the eyes of punters and pundits for it playing against the Hurricanes on Sunday, and was again strapped up for the team’s training session in Christchurch on Tuesday.

However, assistant coach Scott Hansen, who works closely with Mo’unga and the team’s other inside backs, said there was no need be alerted.

“I think it’s just Rich going through what he needs to do for training and a game. It hasn’t influenced his performances, he is happy enough,” Hansen said.

“He's a seasoned professional now, he knows what he needs around that. I've had no conversation with him around any concerns with it [his knee].”

Mo’unga, who didn’t have it strapped for the Crusaders’ round one match against Highlanders in Dunedin, didn’t miss a beat against the Hurricanes.

He scored a try, kicked four of five conversion attempts, and wasn’t afraid to have a crack at the Hurricanes’ defensive line.

Having played practically every minute of last year’s competition, the Crusaders had the luxury of sitting Mo’unga for the final 23 minutes of their 33-16 win against the Hurricanes.

He trained freely on Tuesday and is good to go for Saturday night’s home match against the Chiefs, unlike loose forward Ethan Blackadder.

Blackadder was the victim of friendly fire in the second half of the bonus point win against the Hurricanes, when he took a knock to the head from centre Jack Goodhue defending the line.

Despite Blackadder looking dazed and struggling to get to his feet, he left the paddock and passed his head injury assessment, Hansen confirmed.

However, the Crusaders will play it safe and sit him for at least one week.

“[He was] good off the field. He texted him mum and dad to make sure they knew he was alright. Good young man, he will be back on the field soon,” Hansen said.

Tom Sanders, who fractured his cheek in an inter-squad match last month, has returned to training in a limited capacity, leaving Whetukamokamo Douglas as the frontrunner to replace Blackadder.

“Whets will come in, next man up mentality. He will do a great job. He’s experienced in the role as a No 8, and we’ve got loose forwards who can cover No 8-No 6,” Hansen said.

On top of the competition standings with nine points from two wins, the Crusaders aren’t resting on their laurels ahead of a visit from a team on a 10-match losing streak.

They’re well aware they haven’t been close to putting a complete performance together, and remain eager to lower their penalty count (29 in two games).

The easiest way to do that is to control possession, Hansen noted.

“We achieved momentum with the ball. When you’ve got momentum, you're going forward, you're in control of the tempo, and the ref goes out of the game, you're on the front foot.

“When we lost momentum, that’s when our defence had to come in, we had to make decisions around the breakdown.”

Chiefs fans hopeful the Crusaders might take their under fire team lightly, setting up an ambush in Christchurch, can forget it.

After all, there’s too much history between the teams for that, and their first half performance against the Highlanders last week was enough to put anyone on notice.

“I think you always look at when they’re at their best, how does that look?” Hansen said.

“And that is a team with good rhythm, outstanding individuals who bring a tough breed of rugby. They're a proud club, we acknowledge and respect that always.”