Ioane brothers re-commit to Blues

Author
NZ Herald Staff,
Section
Rugby,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 3 July 2018, 12:57PM
Rieko and Akira Ioane are staying at the Blues. Photo/ Photosport
Rieko and Akira Ioane are staying at the Blues. Photo/ Photosport

Rieko Ioane and his brother Akira are staying at the Blues – good news for a struggling franchise which would be far weaker without them.

The status of their contracts became newsworthy once Hurricanes coach John Plumtree admitted to trying to lure No8 Akira away, only to be turned down. The Blues play the Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday.

Both Rieko's and Akira's contracts with the Blues expire at the end of the season but they have both verbally committed to staying in Auckland and now their new deals are being rubber-stamped by New Zealand Rugby.

Akira wasn't available to talk to the Herald today but coach Tana Umaga spoke of his happiness that the pair, both in their early 20s and the cornerstone of the franchise, had re-committed.

"They're both committed in terms of the last discussions we've had … and obviously, we're very happy about it," Umaga said.

"It's important to retain all the talent we have and those guys especially because they're playing well and mean a lot to our club and region. To get those nods from them is really positive for us as a whole."

All Black Rieko, 21, World Rugby's breakout player of last year, must be considered the best left wing in the world and to lose him would have been a disaster. He has scored 16 tries in 16 tests, including a hat-trick in his last test against France in Dunedin, and is looming as a key player in next year's World Cup defence.

Akira, 23, has yet to play a test but trained with Steve Hansen's side through last month's series against France and is one of the most explosive ball carriers in the game. With Jerome Kaino leaving for French club Toulouse at the end of the season, Akira's stocks have risen further.

Umaga said there were no hard feelings about the Hurricanes' interest in Akira or the Ioanes' agent attempting to get a better deal for the pair. Plumtree, who will take over as head coach from Chris Boyd next season, is keen to find a quality loose forward replacement for Brad Shields, who has committed to playing in England.

"That's the agent's prerogative – that's his job, to try to get the best for his client," Umaga said. Obviously, it's not great for us… but the positive is that he [Akira] is staying with us and that's what we're looking forward to and I know Aki is as well."

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