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Rieko Ioane denies reports of a move to Japan in 2024

By Ned Lester
(Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

All Blacks X-factor winger turned centre Rieko Ioane has denied claims that he has taken a contract in Japan’s Rugby League One that would see the former All Black Sevens star head offshore, along with half of the All Blacks’ starting XV following this year’s World Cup.

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The Roar on Friday reported Ioane’s next move and revealed the Ricoh Black Rams as his chosen destination, joining more than a handful of his All Black teammates in finding a pocket-lining contract in Japan.

However, within four hours of that article being published, Ioane had responded to a follow up inquiry from Stuff: “I haven’t seen anything,” he said. “That’s news to me.”

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The ever-growing list of All Blacks departing New Zealand shores following the World Cup predominantly features those in the 30+ age bracket, and so the 25-year-old Ioane would buck the trend if he was to depart New Zealand.

The rumoured contract may not come as a surprise, however, considering the nature of the contract extension Ioane signed last year; while most New Zealand Rugby contracts secure players over a multi-year period, Ioane instead opted for a single-year extension which leaves his options open following the World Cup.

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While the departure of the All Black veterans comes as little surprise, Ioane’s position as a 59-cap 25-year-old whose as close to a certain selection as it gets for Ian Foster’s side may cause some alarm bells to start ringing to an increasingly familiar tune, as the contracts on offer overseas continue to lure Kiwi talent offshore.

The Roar also reported that Ioane wasn’t the only young All Black weighing his options, naming David Havili and Will Jordan as players who may be testing the waters elsewhere. Should more players take their opportunities in foreign competitions, it will add to the gaping holes left in the All Blacks XV in 2024.

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The once immovable duo of Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick leave the locking stocks depleted, taking 243 games of international experience with them as they look to play out the remainder of their careers in Japan.

Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’unga also head to Japan and leave the No 10 jersey vacant and with enormous shoes to fill, while their halves partner Aaron Smith’s departure means the All Blacks will be on the hunt for an entirely new nine-ten combination.

Adding a midfield vacancy to the list continues the concerns over continuity while furthering New Zealand’s trouble with securing a mid field combination, an area that has plagued Ian Foster’s reign as head coach.

Jordie Barrett’s move to the No 12 jersey looked to have ended the period of experimentation and given the All Blacks midfield a bright future with the 26-and-25-year-old Barrett and Ioane partenership offering a broad skillset and a wealth of international experience considering their age.

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The details of any offshore contract will resolve the uncertainty but for now, Ioane stays focussed on the Blues 2023 Super Rugby Pacific campaign that kicks off next weekend in Dunedin.

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Jon 1 days ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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