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Naholo v Rieko

Naholo v Rieko
From Left: Highlanders winger Waisake Naholo, Blues winger Rieko Ioane. Photo: Zimbio
April 20
11:37 2018

An interesting battle looms tonight between Waisake Naholo of the Highlanders when he marks Rieko Ioane of the Blues in their Super Rugby clash at Eden Park, Auckland.

However deep New Zealand Rug­by’s paymasters have to dig into their treasure chest to secure the long-term future of Rieko Ioane, it can’t happen soon enough for the Blues. As the struggling Auckland franchise head into tonight’s all-Kiwi Super Rugby matchup, the importance of their 21-year-old, all-purpose backline Mr Fixit has probably never been higher.

Ioane is this week running out on the left wing for the Blues in a mega-matchup against All Blacks team-mate Waisake Naholo that might be worth the price of admis­sion alone at the Garden of Eden. Last week he filled the team’s need at second five-eighths. Before that he’s been at centre.

Whatever the Blues require, Io­ane is both willing and able to shift there in a backline that could do with six others of his class, adapt­ability and game-changing ability.

Come to think of it, given that older brother Akira is playing the most consistent footy of his life, has scored seven tries in as many matches, and fills a deep need for viable national backup at No 8, it’s probably worth adding him to that equation.

The Blues, and All Blacks, need both Ioanes to stay just where they are, doing what they do, and con­tinuing their impressive progres­sion into world-class rugby play­ers. Rieko has already emerged as Steve Hansen’s premier strike weapon, and will command a hefty renewal fee. Akira appears to be following fast on his little broth­er’s heels.

“I’m not too fazed by it,” Rieko told Stuff

“It can’t hurt playing a lot of po­sitions, and T (Umaga) and I have been talking a lot and he has been helping me with what’s required, as he knows a fair bit about it.”

Though Ioane admitted his shift to 12, to start the Sharks clash, and for the whole game last week against the Sunwolves, has had its challenges.

Ioane says the Blues’ long injury list (now at 18) can’t be an ex­cuse and the task is a simple one against a quality Highlanders out­fit as they look to snap a streak of 14 winless matches against Kiwi opposition. Edited by Osea Bola


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