This time last year Akira Ioane heard a frank and unflattering assessment of where he stood in the national pecking order.

Having announced his arrival in Super Rugby the year before with an astonishing individual try that alluded to his brilliance as a ball carrier, Ioane spent much of the next 18 months infuriating the national selectors with his lack of work rate, propensity to scuffle off the ball and general unwillingness to adopt a professional attitude.

There was no ambiguity when the coaching staff sat him down.

There was no way Ioane could have been confused about where he was going wrong and why he was falling down the loose forward ranks.


Coming into 2017 Ioane knew that if he wanted to be an All Black his attitude had to change. His training habits had to improve, his work rate had to increase and he'd need to embrace the less glamorous chores of cleaning out at rucks and start tackling more and scragging less.

For the first six weeks of Super Rugby, it looked like the penny hadn't dropped. Ioane began the season on the bench for the Blues and did little in what time he was offered on the field, to change his situation.

His lucky break came when Jerome Kaino had to have knee surgery. Ioane was elevated to the starting team and told to make his presence felt.

Suddenly, there were signs he was getting it. He didn't drift out of the contest the way he previously had.

He manned his post at all times - got his shoulder square in the contact zones, dropped his body height and made more telling tackles.

He even turned up at breakdowns without his clipboard, forfeiting his previously self-appointed role as a ruck inspector where he would seemingly do nothing more than pop his head in for a look, check everything was it should be and then tootle off.

He's still got a way to go but the fact he has obviously taken on board the need to fix obvious failings in his game and preparation, have been enough to earn him an All Blacks call-up.

Coach Steve Hansen discusses a couple of the selections points of his team to play France this weekend.

And again, his lucky break has come from Kaino's injured knee. The veteran loose forward will fly home on the weekend and Ioane will join the squad once he has played for the New Zealand Maori against the French Barbarians in Bordeaux on Friday night.


He'll scoot across to Lyon by train and most probably, despite the short turnaround, be in action for the All Blacks on Tuesday night.

With Kaino due to fly home on the weekend due to his injured knee, Kieran Read and Sam Cane certain to be rested and Liam Squire recovering from a virus and expected to play against Scotland at Murrayfield on November 18, the All Blacks are going to be short of loose forward options in Lyon.

Luke Whitelock will most likely start at No 8 in Lyon with Ardie Savea at openside. But blindside will come down to a choice of Matt Todd playing out of position, or Vaea Fifita or Ioane backing up from the weekend.

Ioane, if he doesn't start, is probably going to be on the bench and from there he will have the opportunity to deliver further evidence of his new found self.

He has the ability to be a superstar. He wouldn't finish so far behind Fifita in a foot race and at 115kg, he's almost impossible to take down at full flight.

He has the ball skills of a midfielder and the instincts of a wing and if he can continue to do what he was doing with the Blues in the back half of the Super Rugby campaign, it wouldn't be a surprise if Ioane wins a test jersey before the end of the tour.


If he does, it will cap an incredible, crazy 12 months.

All Blacks team:

15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Kane Hames.

Reserves: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Matt Todd, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown

* Gregor Paul travelled to Paris courtesy of Air New Zealand.