Ioane to start against Highlanders

Ioane to start against Highlanders

Outstanding teenage prospect Akira Ioane will make his Super Rugby debut for the Blues against the Highlanders on Saturday.

Ioane is one of the most exciting young players in the game, who played in the All Black Sevens team last year and impressed coach Sir Gordon Tietjens.
He was given a late contract with the Blues and the 1.9m, 110kg loose forward was a standout in pre-season games. He gets his chance with Luke Braid not considered with injury and Steven Luatua rested after a heavy schedule.
Another young talent, Blake Gibson, a member of this year’s All Blacks Under 20 team to the Gold Coast next month, comes into the reserves.

The Blues also welcome back Jimmy Cowan to the reserves, after he was on leave for the birth of his second child, a daughter.
Cowan played more than a 100 games for the Highlanders, and joins Dan Bowden, Josh Bekhuis and Haydn Triggs as former players now taking on the Highlanders on Saturday.
Coach John Kirwan is also saving some firepower with All Blacks Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock and Charlie Faumuina to come off the bench on Saturday.

There are a number of brackets with players coping with niggling injuries.
The team is:
  1. Ofa Tu’ungafasi
  2. James Parsons
  3. Angus Ta’avao
  4. Josh Bekhuis
  5. Patrick Tuipulotu
  6. Akira Ioane
  7. Brendon O’Connor
  8. Jerome Kaino (c)†
  9. Jamison Gibson-Park
  10. Dan Bowden
  11. Melani Nanai/Tevita Li
  12. George Moala/Francis Saili
  13. Pita Ahki
  14. Frank Halai
  15. Charles Piutau.

Reserves:†

†16. Keven Mealamu
†17. Tony Woodcock/Sam Prattley
†18. Charlie Faumuina
†19. Hayden Triggs
†20. Blake Gibson
†21. Jimmy Cowan
†22. Ihaia West
†23. Francis†Saili/Hamish Northcott