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Rieko Ioane talks Blues game plan and latest injury blow

By Ned Lester
Rieko Ioane of the Blues. Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images

Losing their captain to an MCL sprain isn’t how the Blues were hoping to head into the Super Rugby Pacific semi-finals, but the team say they are no strangers to adversity and won’t let it get between them and a title.


All Black lock Patrick Tuipulotu is set to miss 6-7 weeks with the knee injury he picked up during the quarter-final win over the Fijian Drua on the weekend.

The Auckland club have survived much of the 2024 season without their experienced leader, with Tuipulotu having missed early rounds with a jaw injury. Fellow starting lock Sam Darry has also missed time through injury in 2024.

While the injuries have tested the depth of the squad, the increased minutes for their reserve options haven’t come at the expense of results, and there will be confidence the team’s championship ambitions have not been dented.

“Something that’s been awesome about our team is we’ve had late call-ups, we’ve had injuries midweek and everyone’s been able to step up and Vern [Cotter] has put the confidence and belief in the boys who haven’t had too much game time that they’re still ready,” star centre Rieko Ioane said.

The All Black, having experienced the adversity of injury himself throughout this season, elaborated on Cotter’s coaching style.

“He believes in the athletes we have in this team and he’s formed a game plan around those. We love having our big boys carrying hard through the middle and then passing it to our fast wings.”


The Brumbies can expect a healthy dose of more of the same, and the Australian heavyweights will be eager to make this contest more competitive than the two’s last encounter, a 46-7 thumping, also at Eden Park.

Both teams are facing a short turnaround, playing on Friday evening after a Saturday quarter-final.

“The reviews are done and now we’re looking ahead to the Brumbies. We’re professionals and one day [less of preparation] shouldn’t make too much difference.”

Part of the review was identifying a drop-off in defensive intensity in the third quarter against the Drua, something the Blues know they’ll get punished for against the Brumbies.


“We know three points can decide a game so discipline, defence and tidying up some of our tactical stuff are important.”


Ioane emphasised the importance of emotional balance, something that his season’s run of injuries has taught him plenty about.

Dalton Papali’i, having stepped up to captain in Tuipulotu’s absence, echoed Ioane’s sentiment. The All Black flanker also said he would call on the experience of previous playoff lessons.

“Semifinals and finals aren’t won based on emotion; history shows that.

“Performance is king for us on game day. You can have all the motivating factors and history can be on or off your side. But it doesn’t matter because it’s an 80-plus minute game and the best on the day is the beauty of it. It’s not form or anything leading into it, it’s just who’s better on that night.”

Watch the exclusive reveal-all episode of Walk the Talk with Ardie Savea as he chats to Jim Hamilton about the RWC 2023 experience, life in Japan, playing for the All Blacks and what the future holds. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV


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monty 12 days ago

Combinations, moments and grinding out the game plan has been the blues strength this season. It’s great to see the side building on their strategies and now finals footy I trust nothing changes. Eye on the prize guys they can do it.

David 12 days ago

The Blues have moved to a NH style of play introduced by Vern Cotter. It’s winning rugby maybe but the Blues have the talent to be better than that. One dimensional rugby is a bore and bad for the long-term health of the players.

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