Kiwis to watch
There’s plenty of rugby before the lions meet the All Blacks. Time to swat up on local threats…
HE HAS GUTS AS WELL AS GAS. DIAGNOSED WITH JUVENILE RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS, HE HAS LEARNT TO MANAGE HIS ILLNESS
SIX GAMES. That’s how many runouts the lions will get before they face New Zealand for the first time, at Eden Park on 24 June, writes Alan Dymock.
First up they will face a Provincial Barbarians side but in the next two matches, against the Blues and Crusaders, the franchises’
All Blacks will be available.
However, the lions cannot get caught up in obsessing over the Test stars – and neither can you. Here’s a quick cheat-sheet on some of the players to keep an eye on, for those who prefer a lie-in to watching Super Rugby…
yep, he’s the lions boss’s son. Fly-half Bryn guided North Harbour to promotion to the Mitre 10 Cup last year and has come in and out as injury cover at the Blues this season. He is fighting to get a spot at one of the franchises for next season, but the 22-year- old – known for his calm kicking under pressure – should get a shot at the lions before anyone else, having been selected for the Barbarians game in Whangarei on 3 June.
THE IOANE BROTHERS
We have heard about the potential of Akira (21) and Rieko Ioane (20) for some time now.
Back-row Akira fi rst came to global attention playing sevens at the Commonwealth Games. Centre/wing Rieko has also played sevens – both represented New Zealand at the Olympics – but has gone one better than his older bro, getting full caps against Italy and France last November. He was also the top try-scorer in last year’s Mitre 10 Cup.
Both are Blues and both have played for the Maori All Blacks, being eligible thanks to heritage from the Ngãpuhi and Te Whãnauã-Apanui iwi. But we may actually see Rieko playing for the big team.
Leinster fans will be studying Chiefs wing Lowe keenly, with the 24-year- old Nelson native heading for the province next season. But the Lions will also be wary of his threats, thanks to a fi ne season in Super Rugby. By the time the Waikato outfi t had played their tenth fi xture, the fl yer had made 18 clean breaks, beaten 29 defenders, popped 17 offl oads and scored six tries.
All of that looks even more impressive when you discover the winger has a daily battle with pain. As a young man he was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, but he has learnt to manage his illness. He has guts as well as gas.
While in the UK we debate the merits of converts leaving league for union, over in Wellington the fans are in raptures about former New Zealand Warriors wing Laumape. He has been in lethal form, scoring 11 tries in nine Super Rugby games this year.
He has a poacher’s instinct but can also bring the thunder – when the Hurricanes defeated the Highlanders this season, Laumape singed past Marty Banks and then ran through Ben Smith, splattering the full-back. He could be an All Black soon enough.
Master of two codes Ngani laumape scores for the Hurricanes
Brothers in arms Akira and Rieko Ioane
Chief threat James Lowe has been in great form