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Rieko Ioane's new contract won't sway brother Akira into staying

By Ned Lester
Akira Ioane. (Photo by Elias Rodriguez/Photosport)

Rugby fans have come to know the Ioane name as synonymous with game-breaking athleticism and international success, both Rieko and Akira have had their moments in the light throughout their respective international careers, but as a World Cup cycle draws to a close, a new era may spell change for the brothers.

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Having come up through the ranks together, the Ioane brothers have played alongside each other every step of the way, from Auckland Grammar to All Blacks Sevens to Rugby Championships.

Both brothers have had their growing pains in the black jersey, but while Rieko has found a home in the midfield, Akira has struggled to carve out a role in the national setup.

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With both Scott Barrett and Shannon Frizzel performing strongly in the No 6 jersey in 2022, and Ethan Blackadder’s return to form in 2023, Ioane will need to find form quickly as he returns from a medial ligament knee injury in order to make his case for The Rugby Championship squad.

Saturday’s challenge against the defending champion Crusaders is the perfect opportunity to further that case. The game is not only a pivotal matchup in the Blues’ season, as they look to secure a top-four finish, but also a milestone match in the 27-year-old’s career, as he’ll run out for his 100th Blues appearance.

Ioane said the occasion was “obviously pretty special, not just for me, but for my family as well, being born and bred here.

“You sort of dream about doing these things and to play 100 games on Saturday…. pretty special.

“It doesn’t really matter who it’s against,” he added. “You know, 100 games for your region is 100 games and it just happens to be against the Crusaders, so it will be a big game and I’m looking forward to it.”

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He went on to reflect on his Blues journey, both professionally and personally.

“[The ride] has been bumpy as well, but I have done a lot of growing as a person and as a player as well.

“My small circle, my family and my friends and my partner really helped. I’m just happy to be where I am now.”

Ioane is one of many Kiwi Super Rugby stars who are yet to confirm their playing future beyond 2023, and as much as he enjoys playing with his brother, Rieko’s new 4-year deal won’t influence his own decision.

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“I’ve spent nine years playing with him, so I think I’ve had enough,” he joked.

“I’d love to play with him more but it’s just whatever the future holds for me. I don’t know yet, so I’m just looking forward to enjoying the season.

“I’m just trying to make sure I play well here and the rest will take care of itself. It’s just more around what I want and what I want to do going forward.”

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1 Comment
l
leigh 399 days ago

Congratulations to Akira - what a fantastic achievement. And that speech was so special!

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