Rieko Ioane has been overtaken by George Bridge and Sevu Reece after enduring an untimely “flat patch” in his career, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has said.
Hansen said he had no shortage of options for the flanks but the form of the young Crusaders pair had proved irresistible.
“We talked a lot about what we’re after on the wings, again when you’ve got quality people, Ben (Smith) could have played there, Jordie (Barrett) could have played there, Rieko could have played there,” Hansen told media in Japan.
“We’ve got quality people to pick from, but these two young fellas have put their hand up and they’re going well.”
Ioane will now have to bide his time despite scoring 23 tries in 26 Tests and becoming one of the youngest ever nominees for the IRB World Player of the Year award for 2018.
“The other guys are playing better than him at the moment, in our opinion,” Hansen said.
“These two young fellas (Bridge and Reece) have hit the track running and they’re playing extremely well, unfortunately for Rieko he’s a hit a bit of a flat patch which happens in everyone’s career and his job now is to wait for an opportunity.”
“He was going to get one against Tonga but unfortunately he had a calf niggle and we didn’t play him so he’s now going to have to wait until later in the tournament.”
The inexperienced Bridge and Reece, who have played just five and three Tests respectively, were backed to flourish by captain Kieran Read.
“(They’re) Inexperienced in terms of the number of Tests and games but they’ve got great heads on their shoulders,” Read said.
“They’ve experienced certain pressured games across their short careers.”
“They get their opportunity and I’m sure they’ll go well.”