By Gregor Paul in Tokyo

Take a little dive into the mind of Richie Mo'unga and it reveals plenty about why he's destined to be a special All Black.

His performance in Tokyo against Japan was precisely what every coach in the world wants from their No 10.

He took control of the game. He was the key decision-maker for the All Blacks – bold, decisive and while not perfect in his option-taking, not so far from it either.


His kicking was excellent both from hand and for goal and his running game wasn't so far behind.

And yet for all of this overt attacking brilliance, Mo'unga was happiest, or most pleased, with the abrasive, physical way he played on defence.

Who would have picked that? A No 10 who steals the show with his tactical control and it's his tackling and work at the breakdown that has him feeling good about life.

"I was really happy with how physical I was," he says. "Some of my tackles…a bit of unheard of for a No 10…but I was pleased with them."

As he should have been as he made a number of good tackles, particularly after chasing kicks and he was prepared to throw himself into the breakdown area if there was no one else around.

That he mentioned his physicality as the most pleasing part of his game is partly because he's aware that increasingly in test football, first-fives are among the busiest defenders on the field.

Daniel Carter was one of the best defenders ever to wear the All Blacks No 10 jersey and Beauden Barrett's defensive work has been the area of his game to improve the most in the last three years.

So Mo'unga knows that as much as he'll be judged for his directing with the ball, so too will he be held accountable for what he does without it.


But his satisfaction with his defensive shift reveals his desire to become the total package and how driven he is to keep building all aspects of his game to reach the same level as Carter and Barrett.

The expectation now is that he and possibly Dane Coles will be the only two in contention to be in the matchday 23 to play England.

Coles got through 50 minutes and got through them well but All Blacks coach Steve Hansen couldn't say whether that would be enough to give them confidence the most senior hooker in the squad is ready to be involved against England.

Mo'unga, on the other hand, almost certainly will be on the bench as the All Blacks want to persist with the dual play-making combination of Barrett at first-five and Damian McKenzie at fullback, with the knowledge they have a third decision-maker in reserve.

The coaching team will also be keen to milk Mo'unga's knowledge this week about how he coped so admirably against the defensive line speed of the Japanese.

The All Blacks have struggled this season and last when faced with teams that blitz them fast and while the Japanese did that, Mo'unga always appeared to have time and space and the rest of the backline benefitted from their No 10's composure.

"To be able to start a test match and play a full game has been a bit rare for me lately so it was an opportunity to get out there and take control," said Mo'unga.

"That control happened earlier this week when I was able to be a leader. I could take control of the conversations and the game plan so it was an awesome opportunity. I had to do that this week but other weeks it might be time for me to step back and do a bit more listening.

"You can't underestimate this Japanese team. They put a lot of pressure on us. That is the best thing about it [rush defence]. It is a double edged sword because when they are doing that there has to be space somewhere.

"You can't be in two places at once so for us as All Blacks we can't expect anything else in the next couple of games so it is good for us to learn to see how we can punish teams in other ways."