R
Rieko Ioane up for major award
By Raga House | Tue 24 Oct, 2017 08:47

The All Blacks' find of the year looks odds-on to scoop a major global award to go with his newfound status as the premier wing in New Zealand rugby.

Auckland sensation Rieko Ioane has been nominated as one of three finalists for World Rugby's Breakthrough Player of the Year award, alongside Argentina's Emiliano Boffelli and France's Damian Penaud.

Nevermind the absurdity of releasing nominations for an award when the rugby year is still in full flow, Ioane's body of work already in 2017 must make him a short-priced favourite to land the gong when it is dished out at the annual gala evening in Monte Carlo on November 26.

After being first introduced to test rugby on last November's tour north, Ioane has impressed with his feats for the All Blacks in 2017.

The 20-year-old was a surprise choice on the left wing for the opening test against the British and Irish Lions at Eden Park, but a two-try, game-changing display underlined what an inspired selector Steve Hansen can be.

The strapping 1.89m, 102kg power winger has hardly missed a beat throughout 2017, scoring eight tries in his eight tests played, including a double in his first Bledisloe outing in Sydney, and has impressed all with his pace, footwork, workrate and finishing ability.

He was the joint top try scorer, with five, in the All Blacks' unbeaten swathe through the Rugby Championship, and finished the competition with the most defenders beaten, the most clean breaks and the highest number of metres gained.

Such has been the success of Ioane's introduction to the No 11 jersey this year, it has enabled Hansen to jettison previous power wing Julian Savea and allow him to rebuild his faltering game back in provincial rugby, and then via an extended off-season.

Ioane's fellow nominees present compelling cases of their own, but it would be a major surprise if they're judged to have made a bigger impact than the All Blacks' latest strike weapon off the production line.

The 22-year-old Boffelli has excelled on the wing for the Pumas in his first year of test rugby and the 21-year-old Penaud has proven an outstanding midfield find for the French, with a brilliant try on debut showcasing his package of skills.

Ioane will seek to become the second Kiwi winner of the breakthrough award since it was introduced in 2015. Fellow All Black wing Nehe MIlner-Skudder was the inaugural recipient, and England's Maro Itoje lifted the prize in 2016.

It is one of 12 categories of awards at the annual global showcase, including the the men's and women's players of the year, team of the year, sevens players of the year and the Award for Character.

World Rugby progressively releases the nominees for each category.

 - Stuff

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