All Blacks wing Rieko Ioane has agreed a new deal with New Zealand Rugby and it's likely to be announced next week.
World Rugby's breakout player of 2017, and a player considered the best wing in the world, Blues finisher Ioane has been a high-priority signing for the national organisation.
His new deal, which could be for three to four years, will be announced alongside that of his brother, Akira, a loose forward on the cusp of the All Blacks squad. Both men had already committed themselves to staying at the Blues. It is understood Akira has agreed on a shorter deal of perhaps two years.
With 16 tries in 17 tests, Rieko has become a key attacking weapon for the All Blacks. The 21-year-old has insisted the protracted negotiations over a new deal hasn't been a distraction, but he and coach Steve Hansen will likely be relieved it has all been put to bed.
"He's a vital component of our plan going forward," said assistant coach Ian Foster in Sydney last month before a Bledisloe Cup test in which Ioane strained a hamstring. "I can't speak highly enough about him. He came in with a bit of a swagger and he has learned about the All Blacks. What I like is he has got real maturity about him, he hasn't got ahead of himself, and he quietly goes about his work.
"He's learning how to prepare better and better every test match, and when he goes out and plays he seems to enjoy doing what he's done since he was a kid. As long as we can keep him in that mode it's really exciting."
Rieko could have virtually named his price on the open market but is determined to leave a lasting legacy in the All Blacks jersey. "I'm fairly new to this environment still," he said in Wellington this week before tomorrow's test against the Springboks. "As a kid it's always been about the black jersey – just having the opportunity to do that week-in, week-out is enough for me."
New Zealand Rugby's next priorities will be to lock in first-five Beauden Barrett, locks Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock, and loose forward Sam Cane, all of whom come off contract at the end of next year. All are likely to want to extend their time in New Zealand and perhaps as far out as the 2023 World Cup in France.
Whitelock, 29, with 102 tests behind him, will be earmarked as the next All Blacks captain once Kieran Read, 32, calls it quits.