Rieko Ioane up for the challenge

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First, however, there is the job of delivering in Investec Super Rugby for the Blues and whether that is at wing, where he will start against the Chiefs on Friday, or at centre which is his preferred option, doing the business for the Blues is the starting point in his recovery.

 

"Wing comes pretty natural after a while. I trained a bit there when we first got in but the last three weeks have been at centre. I'm happy to switch in and out where the team needs me, but I'm looking forward to playing a bit of centre this year," he said.

 

"That's where I want to play and be playing decent enough footy to be a long-term regular at centre. But for these initial games…I'm happy to slot in at wing as well. I know this year there will be a bit of chopping and changing but I'm looking forward to a decent amount of time there," he said.

 

Three kilograms down on weight he had worked hard in his off-season.

 

"I'm the lightest I've been in a while. I thought this time round I'd try something a bit different and see how I feel a bit lighter. The fitness is up there, the speed is up there. I feel really good.

 

"It was the best off-season I've had for a while. I got the balance right of having a decent break and doing a bit of training. All my numbers are where I wanted them to be at this point."

 

Ioane said he had taken the lessons from what had been a big learning curve during 2019 – from Test starter to observer.

 

"Obviously I was disappointed I wasn't playing but I think everyone would be. I knew the bigger picture was the World Cup itself. I just had to do my best to help the team.

 

"I've learnt a lot and I'm hugely excited for this year and hopefully getting back to playing some good footy," he said.

 

He felt he had made the necessary mindshift and was not down on confidence.

 

"My confidence is right up there. I've had communication with Foz [All Blacks coach Ian Foster] the whole time. I'm in a good head space and hopefully it shows on Friday. My role in this team is a bit bigger as a genuine leader and if I'm playing good footy, the boys will follow," he said.

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