Young first-five Josh Ioane was denied his dream of running out for the All Blacks for the first time against Argentina in Buenos Aires on Saturday, making him the only potential debutant from the match to not take to the field.
Sevu Reece, Atu Moli, Luke Jacobson and Braydon Ennor all got their first test caps for the national side during the tense 20-16 win at Jose Amalfitani Stadium, with the latter three all named to start on the bench alongside Ioane.
However, Ioane remained the only unused substitute as head coach Steve Hansen opted to keep star playmaker Beauden Barrett on the park as the intensity of the match grew in the second half, with the Pumas continuing to ask questions of the All Blacks late in the game with the four-point deficit lasting for the final 32 minutes.
With the Pumas going in search of their first-ever win against the All Blacks in front of a boisterous and hostile home crowd, it would have been a tough cauldron to throw Ioane into for his first taste of international rugby, especially in such an important position such as first-five.
Consequently, Barrett played the entirety of the game, assisting stand-in captain Sam Cane to lead the inexperienced team to victory.
“As I said to him [Ioane] afterwards, it’s not the game for you to be thrown into the deep end,” Hansen said post-match.
“The process with him is that it’s going to take a little bit of time.
“We think he’s a quality player, but sometimes if you chuck them in and things go wrong you can break them. So we weren’t prepared to take that risk.”
Ioane’s naming in the match day squad came partly as a result of eight Crusaders players being left behind to rest following their Super Rugby final success, with star first-five Richie Mo’unga among those who didn’t travel to South America.
In his absence, Ioane was handed an opportunity to earn his first test cap, but with the Argentines pressing hard for victory throughout the entire second half, putting the All Blacks under constant pressure inside their own half in the final quarter of the contest, his chance evaporated.
It now means he will have to wait at least a week to take to the field for the national side, as they prepare to face the Springboks in Wellington next Saturday.
However, Mo’unga and the other rested Crusaders will be available for selection for that game, making it likely that he will assume either a starting role or assist Barrett from off the bench, making it more difficult for Ioane to crack the match day 23.
Ioane had roomed with Barrett in Buenos Aires in the lead-up to the test, but any wisdom passed on from the senior pivot to the rookie was not taken advantage of on game day.
“As I have said – risk and reward,” Hansen added.
“And that’s one of the risks we weren’t prepared to take.”
The All Blacks have four more matches before their World Cup campaign gets underway, including next week’s Springboks clash, meaning there are limited opportunities remaining for Ioane to stake a claim to book his spot on the plane to Japan.
Back-to-back tests against Australia in Perth and Auckland will follow after a week’s break in the Rugby Championship schedule, while a one-off fixture against Tonga will be played in Hamilton a fortnight in advance of their World Cup opener against South Africa in Yokohama.
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