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Blues lose Akira Ioane to injury as Beauden Barrett nears return

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

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The Blues will open their Super Rugby Pacific campaign without the services of All Blacks star Akira Ioane, who has been sidelined with a Linsfranc fracture.

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Speaking to media on Thursday, Blues assistant coach Tom Coventry revealed that Ioane had suffered the foot injury after rolling his ankle during training, an incident that will keep him outlined for “a couple of weeks at least”.

“Aki rolled his ankle at training. He’s got a foot injury which has been scanned. It’s going to be a little while before we can get him back on the grass,” Coventry said.

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“We’re not quite sure what that’s going to look like but Tom [Robinson] will probably be in that role and doing that role as leader as well so we’ve got good cover in that position but Aki’s out for a couple of weeks at least.”

As such, Robinson will fill the void left by Ioane for Saturday’s match against the Hurricanes at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, which acts as the side’s season-opener following the postponement of last week’s fixture against Moana Pasifika.

Robinson will also assume captaincy duties this weekend after skipper Dalton Papalii was left out of the side as a precautionary measure after sustaining a head knock at the beginning of the week.

“It was a glancing blow, and because of his previous history, we’re just going to give him the time so it’s a 10-day stand down, even though he’s not symptomatic anymore,” Coventry said of Papalii, who has been covered in the No 7 jersey by Adrian Choat.

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“It’s the start of the season, we just don’t want to have anyone carrying an injury into our first match of the year. There’s plenty to come, so it’s a loss, but we’ve got Adrian Choat into that role, so that’s where that injury’s been covered.”

In more positive injury news, star playmaker Beauden Barrett may return to action as early as next week after struggling with the concussion he sustained while playing for the All Blacks against Ireland in Dublin last November.

Barrett, who last featured for the Blues in 2020 after last turning out for Suntory Sungoliath on a sabbatical deal in Japan last year, hasn’t played since that test, which the All Blacks lost 29-20.

The two-time World Rugby Player of the Year even revealed in a recent interview that he had considered retirement due to the lingering effects of his head knock.

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However, in that same interview, Barrett said he is aiming to play in his side’s clash against the Chiefs next weekend, a prospect that looks likely as Coventry noted that the All Blacks centurion has now returned to full training.

“Beauden’s been training fully. He’s been running what we call Team Toa, our second team,” Coventry said.

“He’s been planning all the attack against us over the course of the week. He looks to be over his issue he had with his head knock on the end-of-year tour.”

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