. . . but Ioane to stick with All Blacks and Blues long-term

Weekend Herald - - Sport - Pa­trick McKendry

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 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 to 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 haven’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,” said All Blacks 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 tonight’s Rugby Cham­pi­onship test against the Spring­boks at West­pac Sta­dium.

“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,” he said.

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