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Struggling Rieko Ioane one of nine All Blacks released to play in Mitre 10 Cup

Underperforming winger Rieko Ioane, along with eight other All Blacks, have been released by team management to play for their respective domestic teams in the third round of the Mitre 10 Cup.

Ioane, who was dropped from Saturday's 36-0 win over the Wallabies at Eden Park in favour of George Bridge, will likely line-up for Auckland at the same venue when they play Bay of Plenty this weekend.

The other released All Blacks include halfback Brad Weber for Hawke's Bay and Wellington's Vaea Fifita. Otago could get a big boost with both Liam Coltman and Josh Ioane freed up too.

Ioane has struggled since the Super Rugby season, and poor performances in the black jersey solidified All Blacks coach Steve Hansen's decision to bench him.

Hansen names his Rugby World Cup squad next Wednesday, when he'll need to cut three players from the 34-man Bledisloe squad he named last month. He admitted Saturday's performances by both Bridge and fellow rookie wing Sevu Reece drew his attention.

"We saw lots of energy, we saw lots of intent. They were great under the high ball, great chasing kicks, so it's a bit of pressure on the other guys now to front up," Hansen said yesterday.

"There's the old saying 'never give a sucker an even break because he'll take it'. Now we've got some genuine competition, it will be good to see how it unfolds."

When asked if the performances of the pair of rookie wings made selecting his final squad more difficult, Hansen took a more positive spin.

"In some ways it makes it easier because some people really put their hand up last night.

"Where we had question marks, you no longer have question marks. But in other ways it makes it a bit tougher, too."

The other released players include halfback Brad Weber for Hawke's Bay and Wellington's Vaea Fifita.

The All Blacks have one Test left against Tonga on September 7 in Hamilton before heading to the World Cup.

Released All Blacks

Brad Weber (Hawke's Bay) and Liam Coltman and Josh Ioane (Otago) for their match at McLean Park, Napier, on Thursday 22 August.

Vaea Fifita (Wellington) and Braydon Ennor (Canterbury) for their match at Westpac Stadium, Wellington, on Friday 23 August.

Atu Moli (Tasman) and Jackson Hemopo (Manawatu) for their match at Lansdowne Park, Blenheim, on Saturday 24 August.

Rieko Ioane for Auckland vs Bay of Plenty, Eden Park, Auckland, Saturday 24 August.

Luke Jacobson for Waikato vs Counties Manukau, Navigation Homes Stadium, Pukekohe, Saturday 24 August.

Rieko Ioane looks on during a New Zealand All Blacks training session Source: Getty


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