Akira Ioane

All Black Akira Ioane overcomes dark days to realise dream

Akira Ioane will make his test debut at blindside, two years after he played his first and only game for the All Blacks.

Last year was hard on the Blues loosie and he was close to quitting the sport he loves.

"I wasn't in the right head space and I felt like giving up rugby. That was a pretty dark point in my life."

Ioane first made the All Blacks in 2017, playing one non-test on their end of year tour.

That would be his only appearance before he fell out of favour, struggling with fitness, form and motivation.

Disruptive injuries at the Blues could open the door for an Akira Ioane return

One week in, the Blues may be forced to reshuffle their loose forwards after suffering multiple blows against the Hurricanes.

Spirits were high as the Blues trained at their Alexandra Park base on Tuesday following their opening-round 30-20 victory over the Hurricanes, but the combative nature of the New Zealand derbies is already taking its toll, with Tom Robinson and Blake Gibson absent from the squad and likely to miss Saturday’s trip to Hamilton to face the Chiefs.

Sotutu rest gives Ioane opportunity

The one-match All Black missed out on a starting spot in the team's first five matches of 2020 thanks to the impressive form of 21-year-old Hoskins Sotutu.

But with Sotutu rested after the Blues back-to-back wins in South Africa, Ioane has been given the number eight jersey for Saturday night's clash with the Hurricanes in Wellington.

The selection was one of several changes to a Blues side on a short week after only returning from their successful trip to South Africa on Tuesday.

Head coach Leon MacDonald said the decisions were based on a finding from last year.

Opportunity comes knocking for Akira Ioane

After the Blues backed up their last-second victory over the Bulls in Pretoria with a hugely meritorious 33-14 victory over the previously unbeaten Stormers in Cape Town, a delay left them stuck at Johannesburg airport for five extra hours, making an already long journey home even more arduous.

“It was a tough trip back,” said assistant coach Tom Coventry. “We were delayed by four or five hours and sat around the lounge in Johannesburg hoovering down the food that was offered to us. I think the catering staff were pretty keen to see us on the plane eventually.”

Blues coach Leon MacDonald reveals his plan for Akira Ioane

Coach Leon MacDonald said he had room for only one specialist No8 among the loose forward make-up, and that the impressive form of Hoskins Sotutu meant Akira, Rieko’s older brother, missed out.

“This will allow Akira to continue his preparations at home to be fast and ready to add fresh input to the team on our return to take on the Hurricanes in three weeks,” MacDonald said.

Rieko Ioane missing big brother Akira in Blues milestone

The elder brother has long been regarded as one of the most talented loose forwards in NZ rugby, but has so far fallen short of his potential, playing just once for the national side, despite ample opportunities to impress.

Akira Ioane, 24, has already logged a half ton for the Blues - including every game for the past two seasons - but coach Leon MacDonald insists he's one of several unlucky players to miss the cut for the opening game of the new Super Rugby season, making way for Hoskins Sotutu's first start at No.8.

Akira Ioane's mental health battle after All Blacks RWC snub

Ioane, who made his representative debut for New Zealand as 19-year-old at the Wellington Sevens in 2014, has long been heralded as an elite prospect but has yet to make the leap to test level.

After a roller-coaster season with the Blues in 2019, former All Blacks coach Steve Hansen left Ioane out of the squad, citing his fitness and attitude as road-blocks to his inclusion.