When the Lions dutifully examine their opponents’ bingo card for their match with the Maori tonight, they would be advised to carefully keep an eye on the square containing ‘Legs 11’.
For that is the number of a superstar-in-the making, who with anything close to a barn-burning performance could wrench the All Black left wing jersey out of the hands of Julian Savea for next Saturday. Make no mistake, Rieko Ioane could be the real deal. And he’s got Sporting A-list celebrity written all over him. With his height, those clean-cut, improbably handsome looks and then wrapped up by his athleticism, he is set to break the hearts of the British and Irish Lions and scores of young females up and down New Zealand also.
If only I had thought to write it earlier, but take it on trust, this kid could take up the cudgels of the fabled All Black ‘11’ jersey and run with it- and he may even do it in a Jonah-esque type fashion. Bless Jonah’s departed soul, nothing will EVER compare to the hysteria that he caused at the 1995 World Cup with his incredible one-man wrecking ball performances, but Ioane is greased lightning in boots and, just as importantly for a modern day member of the back three, is almost always error-free.
I can almost imagine him terrorising the Brits and the Irish to such an extent that they fly him over to do one of those Pizza Hut commercials or akin to that. I think the NZ public sense something a wee bit special too, quite possibly.
The way he made mincemeat of the defence down the left flank for the Blues in their defeat of the Lions in match two of the tour could be a tasty forerunner of what could happen in the match in Rotorua. The Lions may want to make sure the ball reaches him as little as humanly possible.
Yes, Test Rugby is another beast entirely, but consider that as a member of these present-day All Blacks he would be playing in a side in the midst of an extended run as one of the greatest teams of all-time, as well as the having the definite advantage of having the Brilliant Ben from Accounts as his talisman at the back.
His age or relative lack of experience should not be a factor, simply because if you’ve got it you’ve got it. And Ioane has it, most definitely. And remember that he can cover the centre position also. That is indeed valuable.
It could be a close run thing as to what will run faster this evening in the land of spouting geysers and hot mud: Rieko Ioane or the hearts of all his adoring fans, particularly from South Auckland.
*Mother of invention, does anyone bother with email these days?? Paul: firstname.lastname@example.org