Ioane fulfills dream with test start against Lions
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Success in international rugby has come quickly to winger Rieko Ioane who will make his first test start for the All Blacks in Saturday's first test against the British and Irish Lions.
Ioane was only 17 when he was first named in the New Zealand team to play in the World Rugby Series, and he was the eighth-youngest player to play a test for the All Blacks when he made his debut against Italy last year aged 19 years, 239 days.
On Saturday, aged 20, he will start a test for the first time after being named ahead of 53-test veteran Julian Savea on the left in the All Blacks lineup.
Ioane has already played twice against the Lions, for the Auckland-based Blues and the New Zealand Maori and his selection on Thursday completes his rapid rise from schoolboy star to All Blacks starter.
"I've been aiming for a start in the black jersey ever since I was a young fella," Ioane said. "Once I made the squad my goals actually started to change a bit with the first start probably being the big one.
"To get my start against the Lions it's awesome, it's a dream come true. It shows the hard work my family has put in to get me here. It's my job now to go and do the business come Saturday."
Ioane comes from a strong rugby family. Father Eddie played test rugby for Samoa and mother Sandra played for the New Zealand women's team. Brother Akira plays alongside Rieko at the Auckland Blues and for the New Zealand Maori.
Ioane spent the first four years of his life in Japan where his father was playing for the Ricoh club. He dreamed from an early age of playing for the All Blacks.
"I'm just very excited," he said. "When (coach Steve Hansen) named the team there was definitely a lot of nervousness, enjoyment, everything that comes with a first start.
"I'm just looking forward to the challenge. I've played in a couple against the Lions but this one will definitely be the biggest one. It's exciting to have all my family there so it will be good."