Wynne Gray sees plenty of rea­sons to com­pare Rieko Ioane with Jonah Lomu.


NZ Rugby World - - Contents -

IT USED TO BE a mea­sure of his ex­tra­or­di­nary gifts that when the All Blacks found them­selves in a jam they’d give the ball to Jonah Lomu and ask him to find a rem­edy.

Some­times it worked while at other times there wasn’t a great deal of profit but there was al­ways a prom­ise Lomu would do some dam­age and that was a re­mark­able as­set for the All Blacks. There was an­other guar­an­tee too.

Putting Lomu’s name on the team sheet meant ex­tra con­cern for the All Blacks next op­po­nent as they upped their de­fen­sive at­ten­tion on the dan­ger­ous wing.

It brought more dan­ger if they con­cen­trated too much on stop­ping the big wing be­cause gaps opened up in other parts of the field.

Even when he was cor­nered Lomu could make things hap­pen with a bull­doz­ing surge through some de­fend­ers, an off­load to trail­ing team­mates or a tip­toe surge near the touch­line as he did to ice the 2000 test against the Wal­la­bies in Syd­ney.

Lomu had a mix of ag­gres­sive power, pace and ball skills which de­liv­ered a pack­age of pain for the op­po­si­tion as he dom­i­nated the left side of the field.

That was his in­ter­na­tional do­main af­ter a reign of school­boy ter­ror in the for­wards fol­lowed by some sevens may­hem and then be­ing the youngest player in All

The All Blacks have had a batch of le wings who’d waltz into any dis­cus­sion about great play­ers – Bryan Wil­liams, Ron Jar­den, Grant Batty, Inga Tuiga­mala, Craig Green, Terry Wright, Si­tiveni Si­vi­vatu, Ju­lian Savea, Bernie Fraser, Joe Roko­coko and Lomu.’

Blacks his­tory.

Reiko Ioane was slightly older when he made his de­but against Italy in 2016 but a year later shut out Ju­lian Savea against the tour­ing Li­ons and has re­mained one of the most dan­ger­ous backs in New Zealand rugby.

All of his test work and 11 tries have been on the left wing while his gifts have seen him on both wings, cen­tre and sec­ond-five for the Blues this sea­son.

It’s a case of the Blues try­ing to get the best use out of Ioane as they try to find some an­swers to their patchy ros­ter.

Give him room and his pace will blis­ter ri­vals while in the mid­field his power and size is a dan­ger­ous com­bi­na­tion for any neg­li­gent de­fend­ers.

Nehe Mil­ner-Skud­der may have a big­ger step off ei­ther peg and Waisake Na­holo a shade more power but Ioane is the real deal who de­mands dou­ble-team­ing on de­fence for ri­vals to feel safer.

In tough con­di­tions at Eden Park, the night be­fore the All Blacks were picked for the test se­ries with France, Ioane showed all his ex­hil­a­rat­ing speed and bal­ance to un­set­tle the Cru­saders as he scored twice and laid on an­other cou­ple.

At just 22, Ioane is as good as any wing the All Blacks have had. He’s the to­tal pack­age with­out any ap­par­ent weak­ness.

He has good hands, reads a game well and has an all-round kick­ing game which works in the back­field or mid­field while his speed is sharp.

He might not beat Ben Lam across 100m but his ac­cel­er­a­tion makes him such a tough player to de­fend as he jinks, takes an out­side gap or po­si­tions team­mates with his pass­ing game.

De­fend­ers who give Ioane a touch of ex­tra room on the out­side think­ing they can force him into touch are of­ten left clutch­ing air or fall­ing off his frame as he takes up their of­fer.

The All Blacks have had a batch of left wings who’d waltz into any dis­cus­sion about great play­ers – Bryan Wil­liams, Ron Jar­den, Grant Batty, Inga Tuiga­mala, Craig Green, Terry Wright, Si­tiveni Si­vi­vatu, Ju­lian Savea, Bernie Fraser, Joe Roko­coko and Lomu.

It’s a list of ta­lent who all had dif­fer­ent ways of get­ting the job done.

The all-round class of Jar­den topped up by his goal­kick­ing, the won­drous side­steps and pace from Beegee, the ex­plo­sive eva­sion from Batts, the silkier moves from Wright, Si­vi­vatu and Joe Roks and the de­struc­tion from Jonah – they all knew how to get things done as Ioane is show­ing us now.

It’s as if his brain is en­gaged and two paces ahead of op­po­nents when he gets the ball, he’s look­ing to ex­ert the most pres­sure in any part of the field.

His ap­petite for work adds an­other di­men­sion to the work of the back three when he plays on the All Blacks left wing but is then mak­ing some play down the right, run­ning a de­coy line or back­ing up a team­mate.

That in­volve­ment has been a boon for the Blues when Ioane has started ev­ery game this sea­son.

How that works with the stand-down clauses for All Blacks is a bit of a mys­tery but with­out him the Blues would have been in a worse predica­ment. He is a gem on their ros­ter and in a dan­ger­ous all-round side like the All Blacks can be lethal.

MIR­A­CLE MAN Rieko Ioane has shown him­self to be one of the best All Blacks wings in his­tory de­spite the fact he’s still only 22.

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