Former Wallabies wing Digby Ioane returning to Crusaders in 2018

Crusaders wing Digby Ioane in action against his former team, the Queensland Reds, in Brisbane earlier this year.
CHRIS HYDE/GETTY IMAGES

Crusaders wing Digby Ioane in action against his former team, the Queensland Reds, in Brisbane earlier this year.

Former Wallabies wing Digby Ioane will return to the champion Crusaders for a second season next year. 

The 32-year-old was limited to just three appearances the past Super Rugby season, but recently told Fox Sports he had fallen back in love with rugby at the Christchurch-based franchise. 

Crusaders chief executive Hamish Riach confirmed Ioane would return in 2018, something he always hoped when they signed the former Reds star last year. 

Crusaders wing Digby Ioane at the team's street parade in Christchurch last week.
KAI SCHWOERER/GETTY IMAGES

Crusaders wing Digby Ioane at the team's street parade in Christchurch last week.

"It was a slightly complicated structure to the deal," Riach said. "It wasn't a normal contract, in that we did two one-year deals, for a whole lot of reasons.

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"While we always expected it was the equivalent of a two-year deal, there was that possibility that Digby might have decided to potentially make other choices for that second year."

Crusaders chief executive Officer Hamish Riach believes the team is in 'great shape' heading into next season.
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Crusaders chief executive Officer Hamish Riach believes the team is in 'great shape' heading into next season.

Ioane, who is in Japan for a six-week stint with the Robbie Deans coached Panasonic Wild Knights, joins fellow outside backs Israel Dagg, David Havili, George Bridge, Seta Tamanivalu and Jone Macilai on the books. 

While a hand injury played a big role in limiting Ioane's game-time this year, Tamanivalu's successful transition from the midfield to the wing, and the rise of rookie Bridge also cost him.

Havili's outstanding form at fullback also pushed Dagg to the wing, meaning Ioane's most recent run for the Crusaders was a warm-up match against the Highlanders in Timaru during the June-July international window. 

Crusaders wing Digby Ioane doesn't want to play for the Wallabies again.
KAI SCHWOERER/GETTY IMAGES

Crusaders wing Digby Ioane doesn't want to play for the Wallabies again.

However, the lack of opportunities obviously didn't put Ioane off returning to the Garden City after previously not enjoying stints in Paris and Japan.

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"Everything was just day in, day out, it wasn't exciting for me," Ioane told Fox Sports.

"You love your job when you wake up in the morning and you're going to work and you're excited to see the boys and be there. That's the kind of feeling I had when I was at the Reds and I found that when I went to Christchurch."

Finding out why New Zealand teams are "so good" was behind Ioane's decision to sign with the Crusaders, while he also admitted he doesn't have the desire to play for the Wallabies again. 

The energetic wing said Australian rugby was in a "big hole", in contrast to New Zealand being in "their own league". 

"We've loved having him, he's been a really popular member of the group. It's been a win-win," Riach said. 

"We always had the strong assumption that Digby was coming for those two years, so the fact he has confirmed that is great and it's exactly what we hoped to hear him say. We're delighted and looking forward to him doing year two with us."

With the majority of the franchise's roster locked in well in advance of the October 31 deadline, the Crusaders are sitting pretty on the back of winning their eighth Super Rugby crown.

"One of the really nice things about a successful campaign and one the boys enjoyed, you can get to positive contract negotiations a little bit earlier. We're in great shape."

Signed-up Crusaders: Codie Taylor (until 2021), Sam Whitelock, Oli Jager, Mitchell Drummond (2020); Kieran Read, Owen Franks, Israel Dagg, Joe Moody, Ben Funnell, Tim Perry, Mitchell Hunt, George Bridge, Jack Goodhue, David Havili, Richie Mo'unga, Tom Sanders (2019); Matt Todd, Ryan Crotty, Seta Tamanivalu, Wyatt Crockett, Jordan Taufua, Scott Barrett, Luke Romano, Mike Alaalatoa, Jone Macilai, Leon Fukofuka, Pete Samu, Digby Ioane (2018).

 - Stuff

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