Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Rieko's ABs call-up 'better than Olympics'

Rieko Ioane during an All Blacks training session. Photo / Getty Images
Rieko Ioane during an All Blacks training session. Photo / Getty Images

At 1.89m and at least 102kg, outside back and new All Black Rieko Ioane has the physical gifts to be a devastating attacking weapon.

And coach Steve Hansen said today after naming the 19-year-old in his squad of 36 for the upcoming All Blacks tour of Chicago, Rome, Dublin and Paris that with the right training Blues and Auckland player Ioane, who has been compared with All Black midfielder Sonny Bill Williams and Wallaby Israel Folau, should become an even better and more dangerous prospect.

"He's a big man, a fast man, but he's by no means the finished product," Hansen said.

"There's a lot of conditioning work we can put into him. We think we can make him a better, more rounded athlete than what we've got. He's going to give us another big man on the end of the chain, a la Julian [Savea] or Waisake [Naholo], who are both big men as well.

"He's come off a year where he's been involved in Super Rugby and has done very well. He was involved in the sevens and did well there and he's played Mitre 10 Cup to a very high level, scoring lots of tries. He's an exciting prospect."

For Ioane, who represented New Zealand in sevens at Rio, the call-up is more significant than his Olympic experience.

"This call this morning was probably a bit bigger than Rio," he said. "It was awesome going to Rio and everything but my dream since I was a little kid was always to be an All Black, so that call this morning was huge not only for myself but for my family.

"I didn't know whether I was in with a shot or not with this team. I was just trying to play the best footy I could for Auckland. The results didn't go our way this year, but I was trying to play the best I could to help the team and help myself."

Ioane, who scored 10 tries for Auckland this season, was in stunning form on the wing for Tana Umaga's Blues in their recent season, but the All Blacks could also view him as a potential midfielder, a position he has shown a liking for.

The selectors will allow him to develop on the wing for the moment behind some proven talent in Savea, Naholo and Israel Dagg - with Nehe Milner-Skudder still injured - and Ioane is happy with that.

"I'd be happy to play prop if I could," he said. "I'm just happy to be in the squad. Running the water, playing wing or the midfield, I'm just happy to be in the environment.

"There's going to be lots to learn. I went for that week in Wellington and it was only a week and there was lots to learn so I can only imagine what it's going to be like on a big tour."

As for the training regime under Nic Gill, who Hansen called the best in the business, that's a good thing, Ioane said.

"I'm not as fit as I could be. Gilly is probably going to get me in shape in a few weeks so I'm definitely looking forward to that."

- NZ Herald

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