New midfield combination excited by opportunity

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New cap Quinn Tupaea has been named at second five-eighths and paired with centre Rieko Ioane, in another combination forced through injuries and departing players.

Tupaea said it had been a hectic two weeks. First, he was selected for the Maori All Blacks and then he was named in the All Blacks' squad.

Gaining a starting position against Tonga made it even more exciting, he said.

"There's been a lot to take in but it has also been very enjoyable. There's a lot of excitement but I've been focusing on nailing my role for the team. I don't have to go out and do anyone else's role," he said.

Playing with Anton Lienert-Brown for the Chiefs had been helpful, and while Lienert-Brown was injured, it was good having him around to pick his brain in the All Blacks squad.

Tupaea said a factor in his improved play was a growth in his confidence since 2020, especially in ball-carrying and defence.

Ioane, who is starting in the position for the second time in his 33-Test career, said he had confidence that Tupaea would settle into his role well.

Ioane said he had always wanted to play centre, but he was aware there was a lot of healthy competition in the midfield with so many young players competing, and players like Jack Goodhue, Lienert-Brown and Braydon Ennor injured.

"This week has been all about building combinations and Quinn likes to do certain things that other 12s don't so it is just about adapting but we're both excited for this opportunity," he said.

Ioane said he enjoyed having the chance to play more often at centre for the Blues in 2021.

"Coming to centre from the wing, the game is a whole lot different. I've finally recognised that now. I was happy with my progress this year and I hope to keep moving forward."

Tupaea said he always found Ioane competitive when playing against him.

"He's a special player and you never want to give him the outside, or let him run straight at you. It's good pairing up with him, and hopefully we go good on Saturday," he said.

Ioane said everyone had seen the combination between Tupaea and Lienert-Brown for the Chiefs. Tupaea had played good rugby and was a big part of their coming right after a record run of losses.

"He's a young kid with growing confidence. He's got good footwork, is a good carrier. It's going to be awesome come Saturday night," he said.

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