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Another All Black set to miss start of Blues Super Rugby campaign

By Ned Lester
Hoskins Sotutu, Akira Ioane of the Blues look on ahead of the round one Super Rugby Pacific match between Highlanders and Blues at Forsyth Barr Stadium, on February 25, 2023, in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

Blues captain Patrick Tuipulotu will have some company on the sidelines for at least the opening week of Super Rugby Pacific, with Akira Ioane set to miss time with a calf injury.

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While Tuipulotu is nursing a broken jaw, which occurred during the first half of the team’s opening pre-season contest in Japan, former All Black utility forward Ioane suffered his injury in January during training.

Ioane was absent from both team sheets while the Blues were in Japan for their Cross-Border rugby fixtures, and his name was again missing when the team named their squad for the final pre-season hit out against the Chiefs, a game being played in Takapuna on Friday afternoon.

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“It’s a shame Aki has picked up a calf injury so he will be late into the competition,” Blues head coach Vern Cotter told the Herald on Thursday. “He’s knocking people around at training so he’s just about ready to come back in. He won’t be ready for round one, maybe round two but more likely round three.”

While Ioane faces a delayed start to the season’s festivities, his Blues teammates who featured in the Rugby World Cup last year are making a return to action after an extended break.

Rieko Ioane, Finlay Christie, Mark Tele’a and Dalton Papali’i will all see their first minutes of action since the Rugby World Cup final, while Caleb Clarke was eager to return early and so got some quality minutes under his belt in Japan.

They will face fellow World Cup final participants in Damian McKenzie, Samisoni Taukei’aho and Anton Lienert-Brown, with Luke Jacobson and Tupou Vaa’i also named for the Chiefs.

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The season kicks off next weekend, the 23rd of February, when the Crusaders visit Hamilton for a final rematch. Ioane will miss the Blues’ opening contest against the Fijian Drua, potentially also Super Round in Melbourne where his team play the Highlanders and as Cotter said, he could return for round three against the Hurricanes.

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Jasyn 126 days ago

Well losing Tuipolotu and Akira is likely to see them replaced with players with a workrate. Might turn out to be a blessing in diguise, despite Cotters squad basically being MacDonald’s inherited big game chokers.

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Shaylen 13 hours ago
Brumbies the best team in Australia but still nothing to show for it

The Brumbies have been the strongest side in Australia for a long time and that was down to their forwards and set piece which has always been good and has always been able to dominate their Australian counterparts. This year the lack of maul tries and also the lack of a stable scrum has been a real problem which was also something Nick alluded to in his article this week about the creaking brumbies tight five. Home advantage is key as you say and the Brumbies must find a way to score more bonus points. If the Brumbies are really serious about winning a title they need to do what Kiwi sides at the top do. They need to smash every Aus side with a bonus point at home while claiming losing bonus points in every game they lose and denying their rivals bonus points. In their 3 losses in NZ this year they were smashed. They only scored 60 tries which is middle of the road, their scrum came in at 73% which was one of the worst in the comp, tackle success at just 83% which was right at the bottom and in terms of metres, clean breaks, carries, offloads and rucks built they were in the middle plus they had the most yellows. They basically were just not dominant enough wile they can improve their discipline. They excelled at kicking and won plenty of lineout ball plus their rucks were secure at 97%. Not sure about turnovers but they weren’t bad there. They just need to be more clinical and give away less and they will give themselves the best chance to win the title.

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