Auckland rush back Ioane brothers for opening NPC match against Canterbury
Auckland have wasted no time injecting the Ioane brothers straight back into the fold after the disappointment of the sevens team at the Rio Olympics.
The Ioane brothers arrived home on Tuesday but both will line up in Auckland's opening national provincial championship match against Canterbury in Christchurch on Saturday.
After an impressive debut season for the Blues on the wing, Rieko Ioane has been named to start at centre, a position where many believe his long-term future lies, outside Hurricanes midfielder Vince Aso.
Older brother Akira starts from the bench, with Steven Luatua, Joe Edwards and Taleni Seu making up a strong loose forward trio that's missing injured openside flanker Blake Gibson.
"With these new rules you don't need an out-and-out seven because the opportunity to jackal has gone. It's something different for Joe but we are confident," Auckland coach Nick White said.
"The good players will adapt. It comes down to the forwards having that awareness and making good decisions."
White has the luxury of including 14 Super Rugby players but both wings, Pryor Collier (Ponsonby) and Stacey Ili (Manukau), will make their provincial debuts after being called into the squad as injury cover.
"We've got a strong forward pack and have all our Super Rugby players back which is good," White said. "We've given an opportunity to a few guys on the wing, both of those players have taken their chances in pre-season and deserve their position."
This match shapes as a tough induction for new head coach White, who takes over the role from Paul Feeney this year, with Auckland having last won in Canterbury in 2007.
"It's not easy down there so we will have to back ourselves to play well and have a go."
Melani Nanai, Stacey Ili, Rieko Ioane, Vince Aso, Pryor Collier, Simon Hickey, Leon Fukofuka, Steven Luatua, Joe Edwards, Taleni Seu, Liaki Moli, Scott Scrafton, Isi Tu'ungafasi, Greg Pleasants-Tate, Sam Prattley. Reserves: Kurt Eklund, Tom McHugh, Marcel Renata, Michael Fatialofa, Akira Ioane, Jono Hickey, Tyrone Elkington-MacDonald, Latiume Fosita