Lions tour: 'Electrifying' Rieko Ioane has earned his opportunity - Steve Hansen

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen believes Rieko Ioane has earned the right to start on the left wing for the first Test against the British and Irish Lions at Eden Park.

Ioane was a picked ahead of Julian Savea and Waisake Naholo, which surprised many rugby fans - but Hansen said his form in 2017 warranted selection in what will be his first Test start.

"All three of them, Wise [Waisake Naholo], Jules [Julian Savea] are quality players," said Hansen.

"We had a look at what we were after and then looked at the whole season and we just felt that Rieko's been the guy that's been in best form throughout the year.

"He played rugby really well for the Blues when given the opportunity - not the same in the Maori game, when he didn't get many opportunities.

"He's got electrifying speed and we just think for this particular match he's the boy. I guess the proof will be in the pudding."

Meanwhile Anton Lienert-Brown will start from the bench in Saturday's match as Hansen prefers Sonny Bill Williams starting.

Hansen is hoping the second five-eighth can provide a similar impact to what Williams did for New Zealand at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

"If you think back to the World Cup, we used Sonny in that tournament to provide something different off the bench and [Lienert-Brown] is very much a Sonny player.

"He is very good on the offloads, he is very good coming in and taking advantage of any space - and we are picking that there is not going to be a lot of that early in the game.

"We felt Ryan [Crotty] is more experienced, who will go into the first part of the match, and then use [Lienert-Brown] who can do something different.

"The alternative to that is using Sonny, but we are happier starting him at the moment.

"This should give us the best 1-2-3 punch. It worked well at the World Cup and I'm picking it work well here again." 

However it's not just his own team he needs to worry about - and Hansen has offered praise to Lions second five-eighth and former rugby league player Ben Te'o, who will start the first Test.

Te'o has had a big impact in all the games he has played on tour, and Hansen believes that will be no different in the Test matches.

"Ben Te'o has earned his spot," he said.

"He has been their number one ball carrier in all the games - he is the best line-breaker, his left-foot step is amazing, and he is really good in traffic."

Newshub. 

Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to Email
Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to Viber Share to WhatsApp Share to Email