Ioane wants bright tournament for homecoming

BEN STRANG
Last updated 10:42 22/03/2014
Akira Ioane
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BACK HOME: It will be a homecoming of sorts for Akira Ioane when he takes the field for the NZ Sevens team in Tokyo.

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It will be a homecoming of sorts for Akira Ioane when he takes the field for the New Zealand Sevens team in Tokyo today.

The Auckland teenager lived in Japan until he was four years old, while his father Eddie Ioane played professional rugby for Ricoh.

His memories of Japan are pretty limited, but what he does remember is that it was cold, and he remembers playing in the snow.

The Tokyo Sevens is known as one of the coldest tournaments on the World Series calendar, and Ioane said it has brought back some memories.

"I don't remember much. I was too young," he said.

"But I do remember it being cold like this. I remember having snow fights and stuff like that, and hanging out with dad at the rugby grounds."

Akira, a popular first name for boys, means "bright" in Japanese.

Ioane is hoping for a bright tournament, and says he won't get ahead of himself on the field.

"I'm still the new kid on the block, so I don't want to get ahead of myself," he said.

"I've got to do my bit for the team, and just try and fill those roles I've been asked to.

"If I try and do a good job here, and then in Hong Kong, try and keep my place in the team for the last two tournaments, and then keep it again for the Commonwealth Games – that's the plan."

Ioane made a big impact off the bench for New Zealand at the Wellington Sevens, with his size, strength and pace giving defences plenty of headaches.

It was his first tournament in Wellington, after missing out on a trip to Las Vegas through issues surrounding his travel documents.

He said he wasn't nervous in Wellington, although the gravity of wearing a New Zealand shirt with his family's name on the back had caught up with him.

"It's a huge honour, and you don't want to fail the country or your family," he said.

"I'll just go out and do everything I can to do them proud."

While his name will be familiar to the Japanese crowd, Ioane doubts any of the fans will know who he is, although he would like it if his Japanese background helped bring the team some fans.

"Hopefully by the end of it they might know my name a little better," he said.

"I'd be happy with that."

New Zealand plays Canada, Portugal and Wales in their pool in Tokyo, starting this afternoon.

They lead the World Series standings with 99 points, two ahead of South Africa.

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- Fairfax Media

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