Ioane handed first-up chance at No 10

New Highlanders first five-eighth Josh Ioane practices his kicking at Logan Park yesterday. Photo: Linda Robertson
New Highlanders first five-eighth Josh Ioane practices his kicking at Logan Park yesterday. Photo: Linda Robertson
Josh Ioane is first man up on the stage, and has a couple of things working for him already.

He is going back to a ground with good memories and - believe it or not - has more experience than the man he is facing.

Ioane (23) has been named to start at first five-eighth for the Highlanders tomorrow night as they play the opening game of the Super Rugby season against the Chiefs.

With Lima Sopoaga moving on after eight seasons with the Highlanders, there was an opening in the number 10 jersey, and Ioane gets his chance tomorrow night.

Bryn Gatland is named in the reserves and is bound to get some game time in the second half, while the experienced Marty Banks misses out.

Ioane has started at first five-eighth in the two preseason games, and looked assured in most things he did.

The former King's College pupil is a good running five-eighth and has an impressive turn of speed. His kicking game is improving, as is his goalkicking.

He will play in Hamilton - at the same ground where Otago won the Ranfurly Shield just four months ago.

Ioane has flirted with playing in midfield and at fullback, but the number 10 jersey is his preferred option.

That potentially gives him an advantage over his opposite, Chiefs first five-eighth Orbyn Leger.

Leger is a new boy in the pivot position - he has played all his first-class rugby in the midfield, but will have to pilot the Chiefs round the park tomorrow night.

Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger had plenty of confidence in Ioane.

''The number 10 position is going to be hotly contested all year and we could have picked any one of those three guys. I think Josh has really started to assert himself, and showed that through our first two preseason games,'' Mauger said.

''Lima was great with Josh last year, but Josh is his own man. We are looking forward to seeing him go - especially around his team management and driving the team round the field.

''There has been a huge amount of growth there. I thought he was outstanding in Mitre 10 Cup last year and that has just flowed into preseason. So he takes a lot of confidence into the game this week.''

The game kicks off at 7.35pm.

TEAMS

Highlanders: Ben Smith (co-captain), Matt Faddes, Rob Thompson, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Tevita Li, Josh Ioane, Kayne Hammington, Luke Whitelock (co-captain), James Lentjes, Jackson Hemopo, Josh Dickson, Pari Pari Parkinson, Tyrel Lomax, Liam Coltman, Ayden Johnstone. Reserves: Ash Dixon, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Siate Tokolahi, Shannon Frizell, Dillon Hunt, Aaron Smith, Bryn Gatland, Sio Tomkinson

Chiefs: Shaun Stevenson, Bailyn Sullivan, Tumua Manu, Anton Lienert­Brown, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Orbyn Leger, Brad Weber, Tyler Ardron, Lachlan Boshier, Mitchell Brown, Michael Allardice, Brodie Retallick (captain), Angus Ta’avao, Nathan Harris, Atu Moli. Reserves: Samisoni Taukei’aho, Aidan Ross, Nepo Laulala, Taleni Seu, Jesse Parete, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Stephen Donald, Ataata Moeakiola

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