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Time nigh for Akira Ioane to produce goods

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 27/04/2017

Akira Ioane has slotted into the Blues' loose forward trio for this weekend's clash with the Brumbies in Canberra. © Getty Images/ Brendan Moran Akira Ioane has slotted into the Blues' loose forward trio for this weekend's clash with the Brumbies in Canberra. Akira Ioane's time to shine is now, according to the energetic Blues loosie's skipper James Parsons.

The 21-year-old Maori All Blacks ace has slotted into the Blues' loose forward trio for this weekend's clash with the Brumbies in Canberra, replacing the crocked Jerome Kaino, who will undergo surgery on Friday.

With Kaino set to miss the next six weeks with a meniscus tear, Ioane will be expected to provide the same bruising impact with the ball and at the breakdown as his co-captain, a two-time world champion.

Ioane has started from the Blues bench in the last six Super Rugby matches after sub-par showings in the first two rounds of the campaign, when he was told to lift his on-field work rate.

Parsons told reporters on Thursday that the time was nigh for Ioane to produce a full 80-minute performance and lead from the front.

In doing so, he echoed assistant coach Steve Jackson, who said he wanted to see Ioane play a protagonist's role in the GIO Stadium tussle.

Positive performances during Kaino's absence could even see him named for New Zealand in the upcoming British and Irish Lions tour.

"I'm sure he's very excited by the opportunity to get some good minutes on the park and step into some pretty big shoes," Parsons said.

"We all know Akira's on the All Blacks radar and it's a big opportunity for him to go up against (Brumbies and Wallabies blindside) Scott Fardy, a pretty formidable, international loose forward."

Having enjoyed the bye last week, the Blues travel to the Australian capital knowing only a near-perfect run-in will hand them a finals berth.

Yet they will have to do the job without a host of their Test players and regulars, including Kaino, Patrick Tuipulotu, Rene Ranger, Ihaia West and Jimmy Tupou.

Parsons, who will line up in his customary hooker role, said closing out matches would be key after close losses to the Highlanders and Hurricanes.

"We timed it a lot better against the Hurricanes (and) other than that brilliance from Beauden (Barrett), I thought we were in a good position," Parsons said.

"It's a results business and we're not hiding away from that, but we've still got to believe in our group."

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