Ioane ready for next phase of his career

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Lynn McConnell     10 Jun 2017     Getty Images

One of the stars of the Blues 22-16 win over the Lions on Wednesday, he was named in the All Blacks squad on Thursday, and also in the Maori All Blacks to play the Lions next week in Rotorua.

With 10 tries in Investec Super Rugby and another against the Lions, he has been making the most of his chances in the better performing Blues side.

He said his first tour with the All Blacks last year had helped his confidence while having Sonny Bill Williams and George Moala around him helped improve his skill and professionalism and he was starting to work on his kicking and vision a lot more

He acknowledged the work of his team-mates when discussing his form after the All Blacks announcement.

"The game style and the style that the Blues have obviously suits my form and the way that I like to play things," he said.

"Tana [Umaga] encourages a lot of running rugby, especially with the personnel that we have out there, and I just dive off the off-loads or whatever they can do to create some space for me."

While preferring to play centre, he said Umaga had talked about why he wanted to use him on the wing this season.

"I'm happy enough. You've got players like George and Sonny, you have to make room for them, they are awesome players. I'm happy enough on the wing, I'm starting to see lots of ball and they're sucking a lot more defenders so there's lots of gaps."

Clearly, the occasion against the Lions lifted Ioane's competitive sense although he played in front of bigger crowds overseas last year.

"I felt quite comfortable out there. I didn't know what to expect and I think that was fairly good for me so I just played my normal game. I was pretty happy with how I went and how the boys played and gave me a bit more ball," he said.

What made the occasion even more enjoyable was the way the side responded at the end of the game. Having been pipped in the later stages of several games, to their ultimate cost on the points table, they held it together on Wednesday.

When Leigh Halfpenny kicked his last penalty goal to reclaim the lead for the Lions the test was on for the home team to avoid the same fate as earlier in the season.

"In the early season we would probably have let that game slip but I think we've had a tough couple of weeks – the last 4-5 block of games has been really difficult and that what's probably helped us get that win.

"The boys showed a lot of ticker, a lot of mana to get that win. As soon as that kick went over everyone knew that we were still in and we just needed something special and that's what happened," he said.

Ioane never had any doubt the try would be scored after the double off-loads achieved by Steven Luatua and Williams to give Ihaia West a shot.

"Everyone at the Blues knows Ihaia and everyone knows what he can do with the ball in space and soon as you saw that fellow go, his rapid legs, he looked like a bunny rabbit running. But as soon as I saw him get the ball, especially in open space, I knew that something was going to happen. Proud of him."

Now the thoughts turn to his second game against the Lions – he only thought he would get one chance on tour – for the Maori All Blacks.

"It will be awesome to get a run for the Maoris but [I'm] not trying to look too far ahead. They'll [the Lions] field a fairly different team but I'm definitely excited to get another crack after I thought I was only going to get one," he said.