Akira Ioane and Will Jordan’s All Blacks test debuts didn’t quite go to plan.
Both young stars made their first test appearance on Saturday night in the All Blacks’ loss to the Wallabies in Brisbane – Ioane starting at blindside flanker, while Jordan made his debut off the bench.
But, due to factors beyond their control, neither played the role they would have hoped for.
Ioane was pulled from the field 30 minutes into the game after a red card to prop Ofa Tuungafasi meant the All Blacks needed to substitute someone else to bring on another front rower in his place, and Ioane was the unlucky one to have his number called.
Jordan, who was the most dynamic attacking player in Super Rugby Aotearoa, had his first taste of test rugby when he replaced Ngani Laumape after 65 minutes. But his night came to an end just five minutes later after he sustained a head knock.
“It’s a tough one,” All Blacks veteran hooker Codie Taylor said of Ioane’s and Jordan’s debuts. “Especially for (Akira), taken off for something he can’t control.
“But he was all good, it was for the benefit of the team; something that had to happen and unfortunately it was him.
“Same for (Will); it was unfortunate that he got a wee head knock…a lot of the stuff that happened was out of their control so they should still be confident that given the opportunity they can still go out there and perform.”
The pair’s inclusion in the match-day squad was among a host of changes made by All Blacks coach Ian Foster for the fourth and final Bledisloe Cup test. With the Cup already locked away for another year, Foster opted to try some new combinations and give some of the new players in the squad the opportunity to make their mark.
The mass changes might have lent its hand to some less than impressive periods of play in the loss, however Foster said that it was the challenge of test football for a team to perform regardless of who is tasked with representing them.
“It was certainly a game where we wanted to give some opportunities to some players, and I’ve got no regrets about that,” Foster said. “But what we have to do as an All Blacks team is demand when we get opportunities in the game that we’re good enough and skilful enough to take them, and I don’t think we were.
“Just before halftime is another case of that, where we piled up a lot of pressure, got a lot of penalties and yet we weren’t good enough to take advantage of that. That’s test match rugby and we have to learn from that.”
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