It’s no argument that New Zealand rugby is spoilt when it comes to its choice of wingers but to call it a production line would suggest each star is the same or ordinary.
Especially down the left flank, the All Blacks have produced world class finishers that appear to outdo each other as if in competition with the history books. In the case of All Blacks left wing, Rieko Ioane, he’s well on his way to making his own entry. Vanquished by the said incumbent, Julian Savea’s strike-rate of 46 tries from 54 Tests is a mightily impressive 85.2% (read All Blacks best ever) then enter Ioane who after his first 13 Tests has already netted 11 at 84.6% – all before the age of 21. To quantify this, Ioane’s strike rate for the Rugby Championship, Bledisloe Cup and Lions’ Tests are running at 100% or better.
Ioane’s prowess was obvious from his early years and now is the process for the upcoming stars – he was noticed lighting up the college tracks for Auckland Grammar’s First XV. Earlier than most however, Ioane made the transition from schoolboy to senior Auckland and New Zealand Sevens rep as a 17 year old. In recent times, this tricky transition period has been managed carefully to avoid premature exposure for young stars. For Ioane though, it was clear he could cope and his physicality was matched by his head for the adult game.
Before his Test debut, Ioane was shining alongside his older brother Akira in an underwhelming Blues team but his individual displays were enough to be given his first black jersey against Italy on the end of year tour. Ioane’s debut 126 days shy of his 20th birthday made him the eighth youngest All Black ever. Yet to capture his first start though, Ioane was given the largest tick of approval by being named to start against the British and Irish Lions ahead of Julian Savea. A double in the Eden Park Test swiftly validated the selection and it was clear to the world that Ioane’s pace and strength was to be feared. Also, armed with a venomous tackle and deft offloading ability, the dream of being the All Blacks centre isn’t misplaced. For now, Ioane’s best position is on the end of the All Blacks backline in the number 11 jersey he currently has a mortgage on.