Rieko Ioane pays tribute to Barrett and Jones ahead of milestone test
Both players will reach significant landmarks in their test careers when Wales host the All Blacks at Principality Stadium in their opening test of the Autumn Nations Series, with Barrett set to become the 11th All Black to notch 100 test caps.
Nine years after his test debut against Ireland in Hamilton, the 30-year-old has forged out an exceptional international career with the All Blacks.
A 2015 World Cup title and two World Rugby Player of the Year awards have been accompanied by nine Bledisloe Cup wins and eight Rugby Championship/Tri Nations triumphs, but it is Barrett’s style of play that has captivated onlookers the most.
Few, if any, first-fives have played with the freedom and attacking intent with ball in hand like Barrett has done throughout his career, and that aspect of his game has made him one of the most exhilarating players to watch worldwide.
It has also made him one of the most dangerous players to defend against on the planet, hence his regular selection in the All Blacks, which has led to this weekend as he joins Aaron Smith as the second All Black to crack a century of tests this year.
An All Blacks teammate of Barrett’s since 2016, and a Blues teammate of his last year, Ioane illustrated how accustomed he has become to the pivot’s brilliance as he outlined what makes the playmaker special while speaking to media on Friday [NZT].
“It’s an awesome achievement and I know it’s something he’s very proud of,” Ioane, who has been named to start alongside Barrett in the Welsh capital this weekend, said.
“The way he’s gone about it and his career’s gone, it’s something inspiring. Baz is a quality player and to notch up one test, and then 50 and then obviously now finally getting his 100th, it’s going to be a special occasion.
“He brings that X-factor to our backline and to our team as well as that calm head under pressure. It’s going to be awesome to be a part of his 100th and I’m sure he’s going to put on something special.”
Jones, meanwhile, will surpass former All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw for most tests for a nation when he makes his 149th appearance for Wales in the international arena.
After having also played 12 tests for the British and Irish Lions, the 36-year-old lock surpassed McCaw as the most-capped player of all-time when Wales were beaten 14-10 by Scotland during the Autumn Nations Cup in Llanelli last October.
However, this weekend presents Jones – who debuted for Wales in 2006 – with the opportunity to overtake McCaw for most test appearances for a country, a feat of which Ioane could scarcely find believable when asked about the achievement.
“Far out, I didn’t even know that he was 149. Honestly, that’s crazy and it’s a testament to both players for sticking with it with your country,” Ioane told reporters.
“Over the course of the years and to reach 100-odd games is something that I’m sure both players are hugely proud of, and, as for the body, it’s not easy to do, especially in this day and age with the game so fast and physical.
“Keeping in top shape has obviously been a priority for them so big ups to Alun and, again, I want to pass on my congrats to Baz because it’s going to be cool.”
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