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'The evolution' of Rieko Ioane's midfield game is reaching new heights

By Ned Lester
Rieko Ioane in action for the Blues. Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images

Rieko Ioane’s transition from the left wing to outside centre has had its hiccups, but the continued growth from the 26-year-old has progressively ironed out the crinkles in his game. In a World Cup year, pundits believe Ioane has added more strings to his bow.

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Surreal pace and attacking instincts made Ioane a world-class winger by the age of 19 when he debuted for the All Blacks, having already impressed for the All Black Sevens and the Blues. Those instincts would have to be rewired when he confirmed his desire to shift to the midfield in 2020.

In the three years since, Ioane has pieced together the midfield puzzle. The few remaining criticisms have primarily been focused on his distribution skills and instincts. Certain plays in high-stakes moments have seen scoring opportunities go begging when the last pass was needed and Ioane failed to complete the play.

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In 2023, Ioane has continued to address his faults and in the weekend’s quarter-final, he put in a performance that displayed just how far his distribution skills have come while reminding everyone that his remarkable pace and physicality remain just as dangerous as ever.

“I thought it was his best performance of the season,” Former All Black Jeff Wilson told The Breakdown. “He looked so sharp every time he got the ball. Accelerating into the outside channel, took the short ball. defensively, really strong.

“I think we’ve been waiting for one of these performances from Rieko and everything is still there. I was really impressed.”

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One try assist from his six passes in the game went along with 88 running metres from his 10 carries, including three defenders beaten.

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Stats aside, it was the rugby IQ that impressed All Black Sevens legend, Karl Te Nana.

“I think we’re starting to see the evolution of him in the 13 jersey,” he added. “The line running is outstanding, you know the outside break, he’s got that. But it’s the passing and the straightening, there was a couple of touches in small spaces that he really did put players in space and set them up on the outside and that’s where he stood out for me.”

Adding to the good news for All Blacks coach Ian Foster will be how consistent Ioane has been throughout the inconsistency in selection inside him. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Harry Plummer and Bryce Heem have all spent time in the Blues’ No 12 jersey while Ioane has steadied the ship at 13.

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M
Mzilikazi 7 hours ago
Swashbuckling Hurricanes and Harlequins show scrum still matters

I always enjoy a good scrum based article. Thanks, Nick. The Hurricanes are looking more and more the team to beat down here in Australasia. They are a very well balanced team. And though there are far fewer scrums in the game these days, destructive power in that area is a serious weapon, especially an attacking scrum within in the red zone. Aumua looked very good as a young first year player, but then seemed to fade. He sure is back now right in the picture for the AB’s. And I would judge that Taukei’aho is in a bit of a slump currently. Watching him at Suncorp a few weeks ago, I thought he was not as dominant in the game as I would have expected. I am going to raise an issue in that scrum at around the 13 min mark. I see a high level of danger there for the TH lifted off the ground. He is trapped between the opposition LH and his own powerful SR. His neck is being put under potentially dangerous pressure. The LH has, in law , no right to use his superior scrummaging skill….getting his head right in on the breastbone of the TH…..to force him up and off the ground. Had the TH popped out of the scrum, head up and free, there is no danger, that is a clear penalty to the dominant scrum. The law is quite clear on this issue: Law 37 Dangerous play and restricted practices in a scrum. C:Intentionally lifting an opponent off their feet or forcing them upwards out of the scrum. Sanction: Penalty. Few ,if any, referees seem to be aware of this law, and/or the dangers of the situation. Matthew Carly, refereeing Clermont v Munster in 2021, penalised the Munster scrum, when LH Wycherly was lifted very high, and in my view very dangerously, by TH Slimani. Lifting was coached in the late ‘60’s/70’s. Both Lions props, Ray McLouglin, and “Mighty Mouse” McLauchlan, were expert and highly successful at this technique. I have seen a photo, which I can’t find online atm, of MM with a NZ TH(not an AB) on his head, MM standing upright as the scrum disintegrates.

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