Rugby: Ioane to charge up resurgent Otago

Showing off the Lin Colling Memorial Trophy following their midweek victory over Auckland at Eden...
Showing off the Lin Colling Memorial Trophy following their midweek victory over Auckland at Eden Park are Otago players (front from left) Sean Romans, Buxton Popoali'i and Joe Hill; (back) Ben Atiga, Jayden Spence, Eben Joubert, Sam Giddens (holding son Luca), Regan Tamihere, Adam Hill and Glenn Dickson. Photo by <i>Hawkes Bay Today</i>.
He might have been born in Samoa and raised in Wellington, but TJ Ioane announced his arrival for Otago this week.

Ioane - the TJ stands for Tala James - scored a cracking individual try as Otago beat Auckland 32-25 on Wednesday night for its first win at Eden Park since 1976.

The Hawkes Bay Magpies will be mindful of that momentum when they host a resurgent Otago at McLean Park tomorrow.

More importantly, co-coaches Peter Russell and Tom Coventry might have spoken of the need to watch explosive 22-year-old flanker Ioane, who made such a big impact off the bench for Otago in Auckland.

From almost a standstill, he gathered steam and broke four tackles to score a try.

Humble in his self-assessment, a softly spoken Ioane accepted praise for his bullocking runs but reiterated the need to start over again in a crammed season.

Turning his tacklers into crash-test dummies with his 105kg, 1.82m frame, Ioane is working hard to make the starting XV for his adopted province, after coming off the bench twice with aplomb.

"I'm happy [with whatever I have to do] but that's [starting XV] where you want to be when you make it for your province," he said.

Ioane moved with his family - father Faiogasa, a postmaster, mother Fualaau, two elder sisters and a younger brother - to Wellington from Apia in 1997 when he was 8.

"It was an opportunity for my parents to improve our lifestyle and give us a chance to educate ourselves," he said.

Ioane played league as a youngster but switched to rugby at Wellington College. He played for Hurricanes Schools and made the Wellington academy, but last year decided to leave the province to look for more playing time.

A month ago, partner Maua Ah-Chong gave birth to a son, Lachlan.

"It's a responsibility you have to deal with when you have a kid and getting the balance right," Ioane said.

Ioane is a first cousin of Wallabies back Digby Ioane, though has never met him.

"I just know him as someone who's part of the family, but meeting him will be a good buzz for me."

In the back of Ioane's mind is Samoa's upset victory last weekend against Australia, igniting the flame of desire to represent his country of birth.

Otago has made four changes to its starting XV for tomorrow's game.

Young Taieri first five Hayden Parker gets a chance to impress after a long injury layoff, allowing Tony Brown a rest on the bench.

In the forwards, Adam Hill replaces the injured Regan Tamihere on the blindside flank, lock Rob Verbakel replaces Daniel Ramsay, and prop James McGougan gives another veteran, Kees Meeuws, a break.

All four replacements are making their first starting appearances for Otago.

- Napier, tomorrow, 2.35pm

Otago: Glenn Dickson, Joe Hill, Ben Atiga, Sam Giddens, Buxton Popoali'i, Hayden Parker, Sean Romans, Gareth Evans, Eben Joubert (captain), Adam Hill, Tom Donnelly, Rob Verbakel, James McGougan, Liam Coltman, Halani Aulika.
Reserves: Peter Mirrielees, Kees Meeuws, Scott Manson, Daniel Ramsay, TJ Ioane, Johnny Legg, Tony Brown, Jayden Spence.

Hawkes Bay: Richard Buckman, Tu Umaga-Marshall, Star Timu, Andrew Horrell, Sinoti Sinoti, Daniel Kirkpatrick, Kahn Fotuali'i, Michael Coman (captain), Karl Lowe, Trent Boswell-Wakefield, Bryn Evans, Kane Thompson, Anthony Perenise, Hika Elliot, Sona Taumalolo.
Reserves: Danny Logan, Hikairo Forbes, Brodie Retallick, Adam Bradey, Chris Eaton, Ryan McLeod, Gillies Kaka, Logovi'i Mulipolo.

- Hawkes Bay Today


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