Opinion: Two Ioanes and a Naholo - players to watch in Super Rugby 2020

Despite 2019 creeping to a close, Super Rugby is already on the horizon for Kiwi fans, with the January 31 kick-off the earliest in the competition's history.

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Clayton McMillan has named the Blues flanker in his 26-man side. Source: 1 NEWS

With the All Blacks' post-World Cup exodus having seen a number of household names depart New Zealand for their last hurrah in Japan and Europe, the next generation are already nipping at the heels to prove themselves.

Aside from those coming through, players that are still here will also have points to prove after a disappointing 2019.

Here are five players to keep an eye on once Super Rugby 2020 rolls around.

Akira Ioane (Blues)

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Ioane was part of the All Blacks' foundation day earlier this week. Source: 1 NEWS

Threatening to break into the All Blacks for what feels like forever, 2020 could finally be the year of Akira Ioane.

Kieran Read's departure, and a knee injury to Ardie Savea seemingly leaves the All Blacks' number eight spot up for grabs, meaning the older Ioane brother might not have a better chance to finally play Test footy.

At times unstoppable, Ioane is seemingly let down by his temperament, rather than a lack of ability - appearing too eager to try and wind up his opponents rather than concentrate on the job at hand. If he can add some maturity to his already overwhelmingly impressive skillset, then there's no telling how good Akira Ioane could be.

The bruising loose forward has played across all three back-row positions during his time with the Blues and Auckland, having played 50 Super Rugby matches at just 24.

Time is certainly still on his side, and a new long term New Zealand Rugby deal signed in September 2018 at least means he'll get another crack at the black jersey in 2020 at least.

Rieko Ioane (Blues, All Blacks)

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The young All Black is comfortable in the number 11 jersey, but not giving up his centre dream. Source: 1 NEWS

It's more than fair to say, but 2019 was definitely a year to forget for Rieko Ioane.

Dropped from the All Blacks after the 47-26 hiding dished out by the Wallabies in Perth, Rieko has had to watch as George Bridge and Sevu Reece prove to be the two best wingers in the country, if not the world.

Barring the form of those two falling off a cliff, Rieko Ioane might not get another crack as an All Blacks winger for a long, long time.

Interestingly though, Rieko will seemingly have the chance to shift infield from next season, named as one of four specialist midfielders by Blues coach Leon MacDonald, giving him the chance to play in his preferred position.

The departures of Ryan Crotty and Sonny Bill Williams will leave the All Blacks looking for more options in midfield, leaving Ioane potentially competing with the likes of Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown and Ngani Laumape for a spot.

Quinn Tupaea (Chiefs)

Quinn Tupaea against Tasman Source: Photosport

A standout for Waikato over the past two seasons of the Mitre 10 Cup, 2020 will see Quinn Tupaea finally have a crack at Super Rugby.

At just 20, Tupaea has clocked up 21 games for Waikato, lifting the Ranfurly Shield in 2018 as the Mooloos won the Mitre 10 Cup Championship. Even this year, Tupaea was a standout in a poor Waikato side that won just three games, scoring seven tries in nine matches.

A step up to Super Rugby will be an entirely different Test, but he'll be playing for one of the world's best coaches in Warren Gatland, in what should be a system that gets the best out of midfielders.

He'll be competing with the outstanding Anton Lienert-Brown and the up and coming Alex Nankivell for a spot in the Chiefs' centre pairing, but don't be surprised to see big things from young Quinn Tupaea in 2020.

Kini Naholo (Chiefs)

Kini Naholo Source: Photosport

The younger brother of departed All Black Waisake, Kini Naholo is a player to watch out for in his own right.

The 20-year-old flyer is another youngster being backed by the Chiefs, having made headlines as a schoolboy in 2017 - scoring six tries in one half for Hastings Boys' High against St Pat's Town.

Those in the know at the Chiefs suggest he could be faster than his older brother, boasting similar shades of power and ability with ball in hand.

Three games and no tries for Taranaki in the Mitre 10 Cup this year suggest that he's far from the finished article and that 2020 may be too soon to heap expectation on his shoulders, but make no mistake - it'll be when and not if Kini Naholo stars on the big stage.

Joe Marchant (Blues, England)

Joe Marchant of England breaks away to score for England in a World Cup warm-up Test against Italy. Source: Getty

One of the more intriguing Super Rugby signings in recent memory, but England international Joe Marchant is an exciting reason to watch the Blues in 2020.

With 62 games and 22 tries under his belt for Harlequins in the Premiership, the 23-year-old has packed his bags and headed south to see if he can handle the heat of the southern hemisphere, reason enough for Kiwi fans to admire.

Given his England debut by Eddie Jones this year, Marchant was unlucky to miss the Rugby World Cup, although it should leave him with a point to prove.

The Blues' midfield options are seemingly thin, with just four specialists named in their 2020 squad after Sonny Bill Williams' and Ma'a Nonu's exits, leaving Marchant a fair chance for some game time.

He'll only be here for one season thanks to his sabbatical clause with Harlequins, so Joe Marchant will want to make sure he leaves a good impression on Kiwi soil.