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'The way he plays, I love the style': All Blacks' latest midfield partnership striking the right balance

By Ned Lester
Rieko Ioane and Jordie Barrett In Cardiff. Photo by Ryan Hiscott/Getty Images

Ian Foster has ordered the third instalment of the Rieko Ioane and Jordie Barrett midfield partnership and the first against northern hemisphere opposition. The self-proclaimed midfield misfits fronted media in Cardiff ahead of the All Blacks v Wales Test, sounding confident they can continue the winning form that blossomed during the Bledisloe Cup.

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Since Ioane made the switch from the wing to the 13 jersey, he has seen a number of Super Rugby stars play inside him. Anton Lienert-Brown, David Havili and Quinn Tupaea have each had their days in the sun but now is the youngest Barrett brother’s time to put his best foot forward at No 12.

Rieko explained how Barrett’s specific skillset and physical attributes complement his own skillset and allow the speedster to better set up the talent outside him.

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“The style of midfield that Alby (Anton Lienert-Brown), D’ha (David Havili), Jordie play, they’re all very different in ways,” Ioane said.

“Jordie loves the physicality and he brings those skills from fullback, so it’s just being able to compliment each other.

“You saw him against Aussie, him and I joked I might need a crowbar to get the ball off him this game.

“Look, just the way he plays, I love the style and suits my style as well, you know, if you’ve got good upfront punch, it makes my job to organise and set our outsides alight a lot easier.”

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Barrett was clearly happy with the response as he thanked Ioane, to which Ioane returned “love you, man”.

“We’ve got world-class midfielders throughout our squad,” Ioane continued. “So the old adage of healthy competition and competitive rivalry has never been so true as today.

“Like Jordie said, we’ve just been given the opportunity this week and performance dictates selection so we’ll be putting our hands up come Saturday night.”

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Barrett’s performance will no doubt be measured against the aforementioned mob of midfield talent that Foster has trialled during his tenure, and with limited games before next year’s World Cup, the clock is ticking to finalise the preferred combination and build chemistry.

Beyond his All Blacks combination, Barrett will be hoping to experience more time in the 12 jersey when it comes to Super Rugby level, having only started in the midfield for half of the recent season. He was asked to compare his international midfield experience to that of Super Rugby.

“The level and intensity and physicality is just so much higher and in some ways, you get less time and the stakes are higher.

“You’re dealing with bigger bodies but in some ways, you flip the coin, you’re also working alongside some world-class players inside and outside, for sure that is a different challenge.”

“We’ve got some really good midfielders in here so I genuinely didn’t know until the team was named so I’m just grateful to get another one in alongside Rieks and some great midfielders in Davey and Anton – that I take a lot out of their games and try to learn off as much as I can.”

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