Ben Smith Rugby: The weakness Rieko Ioane needs to fix to become world class

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By Ben Smith for RugbyPass

The 20-year-old who turned the rugby world upside down in 2017 as an electric winger has always held the ambition to become a centre, where he played as a schoolboy at Auckland Grammar and in 2014 with New Zealand Schools.

The opportunity beckoned to become an All Black through the left wing, so that was the path that was taken.

Now at 22 years-old, Rieko Ioane sits at a crossroads regarding his career in New Zealand and where he will play.

His time at the Blues has seen Ioane drift around the backline, at times out of necessity to help his injury-afflicted team out. They have named him as a midfielder for the 2020 season, and with the departures of Ma’a Nonu and Sonny Bill Williams, time in the 13 jersey remains a possibility.

The arrival of Harlequins centre Joe Marchant may harm that, however.

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Nevertheless, if Ioane is to become a centre first and winger second, and ultimately the All Blacks’ first-choice No. 13, the one area of his game he has to improve unequivocally is his defence.

Even as a wide-eyed kid who wowed the world by burning English fullback Elliot Daly down the shortest of corridors in the opening Lions test, Ioane’s defence has always had question marks.

When the big-plays with ball-in-hand were coming all throughout 2017, these questions were overlooked, as the attacking upside was so great that it didn’t n

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