Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Ioane brothers back at Blues

The Ioane brothers with the NZ sevens team. Photo / Getty
The Ioane brothers with the NZ sevens team. Photo / Getty

The Ioane brothers, Akira and Rieko, two of the hottest sevens prospects in the world after their exploits in Wellington and Sydney recently, will re-join the Blues tomorrow and could play in the team's final pre-season match against the Chiefs next week.

The pair are likely to have plenty to talk to their teammates about once they get back into Super Rugby mode because both were instrumental in the success of Gordon Tietjens' team over the past two drama-filled weekends.

Akira, 20, was named player of the tournament in Wellington, after his side beat South Africa in a thrilling finish, and once again a week later at the Sydney Football Stadium when they beat Australia in similar circumstances after the hooter. That was despite 18-year-old Rieko scoring a hat-trick of tries against the Australians, the last of which left the sold-out stadium stunned.

Both impressed with their power, pace and work-rate, with 111kg Akira almost unstoppable in open play. One of his more impressive tries of the past fortnight came in the Sydney semifinal against Fiji.

Bursting out from his own 22m line, he put a fend on Vatemo Ravouvou which sent the would-be defender sprawling.

He and Rieko will join a squad in good spirits after their 59-7 thrashing of the injury-hit Rebels at Pakuranga last week, with first-five Piers Francis, who suffered a sprained ankle, the only casualty.

A truer pre-season test for the Blues will come against last year's losing finalists the Hurricanes at Eketahuna on Saturday, before they play the Chiefs at Pukekohe next Friday, a match which assistant coach Alistair Rogers said the Ioane brothers could be involved in.

"Potentially - we've just got to work through that," Rogers said. I'm sure Titch has had them running around pretty hard so we have to get them in and assess what shape they're in.

"You come back into Super Rugby and the training load is quite high, it's pretty demanding. So with those young athletes we have to make sure we do things right by them."

The return of the pair for the start of the Super Rugby season proper - the Blues host the Highlanders at Eden Park on February 26 - will present coach Tana Umaga with a positive dilemma. How does he fit loose forward Akira into a trio already boasting skipper Jerome Kaino, Steven Luatua and Blake Gibson? And where does midfielder or outside back Rieko fit into a line-up featuring George Moala, Rene Ranger, fellow sevens star Ben Lam, former Kiwis league player Matt Duffie and fliers Tevita Li and Melani Nanai?

Rogers, the All Blacks' former analyst who joined the Blues after the national team's latest World Cup success, said: "It's a great position to be in isn't it, and what a challenge to have.

"They're young, which is exciting; they're coachable and they want to learn, they possess all the things you look for in athletes."

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW
Stats provided by

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 26 Feb 2017 09:25:23 Processing Time: 448ms