'It’s awesome to be back!' Grinning Rieko Ioane wasting no time reclaiming All Blacks' starting wing spot

Ma'a Nonu may steal a bit of his thunder for the Blues' opener next season, but Rieko Ioane is still this weekend's big ticket in Wellington.

Back in the side after a few weeks recovering from a hamstring niggle, winger Ioane can't wait to clash with the Springboks at Westpac Stadium on Saturday.

"It's always tough watching the other boys playing, but it's awesome to be back."

"I'm still fairly new to this environment, but as a kid it's always been the black jersey, and just having the opportunity to do that week in week out."

The 21-year-old has been able to step up from the 80 per cent he's been operating at for the past few weeks to prepare for Saturday night although as Ryan Crotty explained, even at that level, he can still move.

"His eighty per cent is like half of our hundies!"

Both were named to start by coach Steve Hansen this morning but Crotty admits his road back to black has been more assiduous this time after his sixth concussion in a year.

"Been extremely diligent around this last one. I'm really confident. If I wasn't I wouldn't be here.

“I'm really excited to be back playing and just can't wait to get back out there in the Test match arena."

He'll pair up with Anton Lienert-Brown, who's been rewarded with a rare starting spot after impressive cameos off the bench.

Even accounting for injuries to the likes of Brodie Retallick and Sonny Bill Williams, Saturday's All Blacks look almost as formidable as any since the last World Cup.

And with a perfect record in 2018 at the Westpac Stadium to protect, expect Ioane and co to give nothing less than a hundred percent.



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