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‘Was actually quite emotional’: Sir John Kirwan reacts to Rieko Ioane extension

By Finn Morton
(Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

On this week’s episode of The Breakdown, commentator Ken Laben called All Blacks midfielder Rieko Ioane “the best centre in the world.”

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For a player who has only recently transitioned over from the wing at Test level, Ioane’s rapid rise to world-class status in the No. 13 is simply incredible.

As a 17-year-old, Ioane announced himself to the rugby world on the Sevens World Series circuit alongside his brother Akira – and the speedster hasn’t looked back since.

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While there’s been an almost unprecedented level of pressure and expectation hanging over his shoulders, Ioane has passed each and every test with flying colours.

Earlier this year, Ioane denied reports that he’d signed a deal in Japan from 2024. If true, this news would’ve been a major blow to the future of NZR and the All Blacks.

But the midfielder officially put any rumours to bed earlier this week as Ioane confirmed that he’d signed a four year contract extension with NZR.

Ioane’s decision to knock back lucrative deals from overseas is a great thing for the All Blacks, as it reinforces the pedigree and aura that the coveted jersey carries.

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Following the announcement, All Blacks great Sir John Kirwan explained why the news made him “emotional.”

“I was actually quite emotional about it Goldie (Jeff Wilson) to be fair,” Kirwan said on Sky Sports The Breakdown.

“I understand that people have to look after their futures and there’s big financial rewards overseas.

“But for him to say ‘my legacy, our legacy, which for me is the All Blacks, I want to achieve some goals.’

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“For me I just thought, ‘Wow that’s so good, so good.’

“We need a new era, I believe, after this World Cup.”

Ioane will have the opportunity to take a sabbatical during his extended deal though – but World Cups and the black jersey are driving him.

The 26-year-old spoke about how he wants to forge a “legacy” in Aotearoa, and this decision will go a long way to making that dream a reality.

“The other thing I like about Rieko is he’s worked really hard to get better. Goldie you and I played on the wing, he was an outstanding winger… best in the world at wing, he’s transformed to centre and it wasn’t easy for him to start with,” he added.

“I just think it’s one of those signings that’s going to help others sign, and once again the Blues traditionally have had players like this who do leave early.

“You think about Steven Luatua, you think about Charles Piutau, those guys have left, even Melani Nanai.

“To have that stability, leadership within the Blues, hopefully that’ll get a whole lot more guys to stay.”

Ioane and the Blues are set to host the NSW Waratahs at Eden Park on Saturday.

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