Buck’s advice for Ioane: don’t be ‘show pony’
Wayne ‘Buck’ Shelford has issued a blunt challenge Blues No 8 Akira Ioane: ‘‘Be more of a workhorse than a show pony.’’
Ioane is one of the most talented players in the country, but was left out of the All Blacks’ 51-man squad for their tour of Japan and Europe in November.
It’s a tough love policy that has found a supporter in Shelford, one of the hardest men to wear the black jersey.
‘‘Akira is definitely a No 8, without a doubt,’’ Shelford said. ‘‘But I agree with what the selectors say, his work rate isn’t high enough at the moment.
‘‘He’s got to be more of a workhorse than a show pony.
"He tends to hang off a lot and not do a lot of work.’’
Ioane’s response to his omission from the All Blacks was dramatic.
He produced two big games for Auckland at the sharp end of the Mitre 10 Cup and it’s that sort of dominant form that Shelford wants to see on a consistent basis.
‘‘Akira is a good No 8,’’ Shelford said. ‘‘He has some really good games and then he has some games where he falls off.
‘‘He’s a very good runner, he’s very powerful around his hips and can break tackles. We see his good things quite often in the game, but it’s not enough.’’
Shelford said he had some sympathy for Ioane, because in modern attack structures the No 8 and No 6 were often not involved for ‘‘minutes at time’’, giving the impression they were ‘‘lazy’’.
However, it was on defence that Shelford wanted to see an improvement, particularly at the ruck.
‘‘I’d like to see him turning over the ball three or four times a game,’’ Shelford said.
‘‘He’s that type of guy that could do it, he’s very much like Ardie [Savea] and very powerful over the ball.
‘‘If the loosies actually turned around and said, ‘Let’s get three turnovers a game,’ that’s nine turnovers, that’s huge.
‘‘He fights that fight on the ground when he is in the area, but when he’s not in the area that’s a good player who is not actually involved in the game.
‘‘You’re losing a real powerhouse.’’
Despite his reservations, Shelford said Ioane could change his habits.
‘‘It’s a bit like watching Jerry Collins and Rodney So’oialo play,’’ Shelford said.
‘‘They spent two years on those guys teaching them how to play rugby.
‘‘They used to ‘T-bone’ all the time and couldn’t pass the ball.
‘‘They were quite selfish in the way they played, but come the end of their careers they were playing bloody good football.’’
Shelford also backed Kieran Read to bounce back next year with a bit more football under his belt, but saw Liam Squire as the next best option at No 8, rather than Savea. ‘‘Ardie has potential there [at No 8], but every time I see him play the position but he makes a few mistakes at the back of the scrum.
‘‘When you’ve got a good scrum and you’re trying to pull the ball forward, if you’ve never played in that No 8 position it’s really hard to control the ball.’’
Shelford saw Savea as a natural No 7, but said that Squire’s was a natural No 8 who had been converted to the blindside.
‘‘Liam [Squire] is a No 8,’’ Shelford said. ‘‘I think that Liam was playing No 8 when he was [first] picked, but they’ve put him on the side.
‘‘I think he’s good. He could be a No 8 pretty easily.’’
‘‘At the moment Kieran is the number one No 8 and Ardie is the number one flanker. Whether Sam Cane can actually come back into the fray that’s another story. It’s a big ask.
Akira Ioane on the burst for the Maori All Blacks.