Naming the first All Blacks squad of the season this week, Steve Hansen had to tell a familiar story: why Akira Ioane wasn't selected.

The ball-playing loose forward has been a member of All Blacks foundation days, but when it came squad selection, Ioane's name wasn't among the eight loose forwards listed.

When asked about the 24-year-old's omission, Hansen wasn't afraid to underline the issue.

"It's the same problem he's always had," Hansen said. "He came into the season probably not as fit as he could have been, and played every game for the Blues at the same time as trying to get fit.


"He's a tired athlete. Did we see the best of him? I don't think we did in Super Rugby and other people played particularly well and put themselves in front of him."

Among those named in the loose forwards were All Blacks mainstays Sam Cane, Kieran Read and Ardie Savea, familiar faces in Matt Todd, Shannon Frizell, Vaea Fifita and Dalton Papalii, and debutant Luke Jacobson.

While Ioane has played one match for All Blacks, he's yet to make his test debut and after Hansen's explanation as to what's holding him back, it seems a test debut will be more of a long-term goal.

"We know what's under the surface but we just need him to take ownership of that and turn up and say 'I'm in'. Once he does that I'm sure he'll get selected one day.

"At the moment he hasn't done that. You can only lead a horse to water – you can't make it drink. He's got to decide to get thirsty."

Akira Ioane. Photo / Getty Images
Akira Ioane. Photo / Getty Images

Like Ioane, a number of All Blacks hopefuls missed out on the first squad of the season but will still have a chance to impress selectors before they make their final decisions for this year's World Cup squad.

Hansen said there was still plenty of opportunity from players to make their case, and Ioane would have the chance to do so when he fronts for the Māori All Blacks against Fiji later this month.

"There's an avenue for everybody to come back," Hansen said. "People will get injured, there will be opportunities. We've got to have everybody ready."


Sporadic All Blacks Nathan Harris and Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi will also play for the Māori All Blacks after missing out on a spot in Hansen's 39-man squad.

"Every opportunity you get to pull on a jersey, it doesn't matter whether it's club, province or another national jersey, it's important if you want to push yourself, you play well.

"The hard thing for guys named in the Māori side who missed out and like to think they should be in the All Blacks is to overcome that disappointment, put it to bed and say 'I'll go show them I should be there'.

"They're allowed to be disappointed. You want them to be disappointed. But you can't be disappointed for too long because the train keeps running."