All Black Rieko Ioane is having one of his best seasons for the Blues in 2020 after losing his starting wing position to George Bridge at last year’s World Cup.
The Auckland-product has flourished at centre in Super Rugby Aotearoa this season and his old schoolboy highlights for Auckland Grammar show that he has had the potential to be a 13 all along.
In 2014, Ioane helped his 1st XV reach the national semi-finals of schoolboy rugby in New Zealand and was selected at centre for the New Zealand schoolboys against Australia.
Ioane has played both midfield positions for the Blues since debuting in 2016 but a busy midfield that has included All Blacks Sonny Bill Williams, George Moala and Ma’a Nonu meant that the star could not get consistent game time there.
Coupled with his devastating performances for the All Blacks on the left wing in 2017 meant that Ioane was an easy selection in the 11 jersey.
Fast forward to 2020 and the Blues seem committed to the switch, which both Blues’ coaches confirmed earlier in the year.
“He’s more than happy to play wherever we need him, because he’s the kind of guy who wants to do what’s best for the Blues,” assistant Dan Halangahu told Stuff in January.
“But that transition to midfield is something he is excited about. The All Blacks want to see that too. Everyone wants to see what Rieko can do in midfield.
This was a belief also shared by head coach Leon MacDonald, who himself played fullback and centre for the All Blacks.
“We’re committed to giving Rieko a good crack at centre,” McDonald told Stuff.
“It will be up to him whether he becomes the starting centre. Nobody is assured of any position, so he understands that. He made it clear he’ll do whatever is best for the team.
“But I’ve seen him play centre and he’s pretty outstanding there as well.”
Ioane’s biggest test as an outside centre will come this weekend when the Blues return from the bye to play the Crusaders. He will face off against incumbent test centre Jack Goodhue and Braydon Ennor in a battle the All Black selectors will be keenly watching.
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