(Reuters) - All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said winger Rieko Ioane could achieve whatever he wants “if we keep his feet on the floor” after the 20-year-old produced another standout performance in the 33-18 win over Wales at the Principality Stadium on Saturday,
Ioane has swept all before him in 2017 and scored two tries in Cardiff just a week after a shoulder injury against Scotland looked to have ruled him out of the game and possibly put him out for several months.
But, after being compared by his coach to Lazarus for the way he recovered in time to face Wales, Ioane delivered another display of pace and power to spearhead New Zealand to victory in their final game of the year.
“If we can keep his feet on the floor, he can go anywhere, that kid,” said Hansen, who has watched his rookie score 10 times in 11 tests since making his debut at the end of last year.
Ioane’s performance was in keeping with his astonishing ascent this season and showed why he is one of three finalists for World Rugby’s Breakthrough Player of the Year award, alongside Argentina’s Emiliano Boffelli and France’s Damian Penaud.
“Every time he gets the ball, you wonder what is going to happen. He has got pace, but he is strong with it,” said Hansen.
Ioane formed a twin threat with fellow winger Waisake Naholo, who also scored two tries to batter Wales into eventual submission.
Every time either player got the ball they threatened, with Ioane capping his display by also setting up Naholo’s first try.
Wales coach Warren Gatland admitted the pair made the difference between the teams, with Ioane providing a reminder of the devastating form he showed against the Lions earlier this year when he scored twice in the first test.
“He’s pretty special,” said Gatland. “Any team in the world would love to have a player of that quality.”
Reporting by Neil Robinson; Editing by Toby Davis