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Ioane realises dream with All Blacks berth

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 23/10/2016 Angelo Risso
Reiko Ioane in action for the Blues. © Getty Images Reiko Ioane in action for the Blues.

Blues' Super Rugby young gun Rieko Ioane had a late one on Saturday, but it wasn't due to a night of debauchery.

Instead, he was just busy playing the Playstation.

Yet the reserved 19-year-old awoke on Sunday morning to discover he'd been selected for the All Blacks' northern tour squad.

The world champions will take in Chicago, Rome, Dublin and Paris on the whirlwind four-week tour, as they look to complete a perfect 2016 campaign.

For Ioane, the call-up realised a childhood dream after setting the provincial championship alight this season with Auckland.

He also took part in the All Blacks Sevens' unsuccessful Rio Olympics tilt under Sir Gordon Tietjens.

"I wasn't expecting to be anywhere close to this team," Ioane said.

"I'm just happy enough to be the coach's choice, to pick me."

The 189cm back scored 10 tries in nine games for a sub-par Auckland outfit this year, becoming one of the form players of the tournament.

He also topped the league for clean breaks, defenders beaten and metres run.

Ioane will likely be used as a winger on tour, as opposed to centre, as the All Blacks look to develop him into a world-class finisher.

"He's a big man, a fast man but by no means the finished product, and there's a lot of conditioning work we can put into him," coach Steve Hansen said.

"It'll give us another man on the end of the chain, a la Julian Savea or Waisake Naholo, who are both big men as well."

Ioane, for his part, had no qualms playing anywhere Hansen requested.

He was just happy to learn at the highest possible level, saying he was fit and ready to fill in.

"I'd be happy to be a prop if I could," Ioane said.

"It was awesome going to Rio, but my dream since I was little was always to be an All Black and to get that call was huge."

Hansen hoped the inclusion of players such as Ioane, Damian McKenzie, apprentice Jordie Barrett and Anton Lienert-Brown would future-proof his side.

He said his work in re-establishing the squad after the loss of several stars including Richie McCaw remained incomplete, despite a near-flawless year.

The All Blacks blitzed Wales 3-0 in their June series before strolling to clean sweeps in the Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup.

The side also secured a record 18th consecutive Test win against the Wallabies on Saturday, with the chance to stretch the streak to 22 on tour.

"It'll give us the opportunity to continue to blend this young talent with a more experienced group, so we can future-proof the side going forward," Hansen said.

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