Manu ironman Ioane just doing his job
He might be Samoa’s top tackler at the Rugby World Cup, but loose forward TJ Ioane insists he is just doing his job.
The 30-year-old from the villages of Vaie’e, Saleimoa and Lalovaea has made 40 tackles across the Manu’s first two games, leading the team both times and the tournament overall.
Ioane said he thinks the secret to his success might be because he’s one of the smaller players in the team ( at 1.84m and 102kg) and therefore one who opposing players tend to run toward.
“I was probably just in the right place at the right time," he said.
He started at open-side flanker against both Russia and Scotland and thinks the spaces you have to occupy in that position contribute to tackle count too: around the fringes and in the seamline between the forwards and backs.
Ioane has always been known for his work rate in each team he’s represented in his career to date, but he said it’s not something he thinks about:
“That’s what your brother next to you expects out of you, you just work, that’s a non-negotiable," he said.
“You work your ass off until you can’t work anymore then we roll the subs, I think we’ve all got that attitude in the team.”
Ioane said he’s just part of an awesome group of Samoan loose forwards, which includes people that missed out on the World Cup squad like Henry Stowers.
He said the depth in those back row positions reflects the work done by the Samoan Rugby Union both on the island and abroad.
“Whoever misses out on game day, it’s just drawing the unlucky stick,” Ioane said.
The London Irishman has played in every Manu match in 2019, starting on all but one occasion and playing all three loose forward positions at times.
He missed a couple months of the English Rugby Championship season at the start of the year with a posterior cruciate ligament injury but has since been ever-present for club and country.
It’s a lot of hard miles on the man with perhaps the biggest engine in the Manu squad, so is he worried?
“The body’s alright,” Ioane said.
Games come thick and fast at the Rugby World Cup, so Ioane said the main things they need to worry about are clarity on the game plan and opponents for each match, and recovery from games, training and travel.
“Because of the turnarounds, it feels like our days are out of line at the moment,” he said.
“Because we’ve been playing Monday, Tuesday, a Sunday for us felt like a Friday.
“Then we’re packing up to leave for another hotel on a Tuesday.”
Ioane said these are some of the challenges everyone faces at a Rugby World Cup, so there is no excuse:
“We can only control what we can control.
“Keep our circle tight.”