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Umaga says time will come for Ioane at centre

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Options for Ioane are minimal in the Blues midfield anyway with Sonny Bill Williams and George Moala well placed incumbents.

"As I said to him it's hard when he's the world's best left wing so it's his own fault at the moment," Umaga said when naming his sides to play the Hurricanes in their final warm-up game at Warkworth on Thursday.
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"We know there's a future for him and that he wants to play centre. It's a credit to Rieko that he just wants to do what's best for the team. He'll get his opportunity I'm sure, as he did last year, and it's up to the mid-fielders to put their best foot forward because they know he wants it.

"That's what we want, the competition for positions," he said.

"I've been through that and I'm nowhere near as fast as he was and I don't think there's going to be any time that he's going to lose that, but it's a good place to start and get a real understanding of what a mid-fielder wants because obviously when you're on the wing you're always talking to your midfield telling them to give you the ball.

"So once he goes into the midfield and his winger keeps asking him for the ball he'll know what it feels like," he said.

Umaga said the Blues' returning All Blacks had been working hard while the side was away for the Brisbane Tens. There had been a lift in the excitement created by the effort the young players in the squad had put in and the senior players were champing at the bit to get back into contact.

The important thing in Warkworth would be improving the level of understanding with the All Blacks and players who had been affected by off-season injuries returning.

"We just want to make sure that everything we've been practising they put out on the field and stick to those structures that we've been working on," he said.

It was all very well working on them at training with no opposition, it was when they were getting bumped around when trying to execute the plans that the benefits were to be had.

It would be a different contest against the Hurricanes from that played out in the final of the Tens. The two teams were significantly different, they had their All Blacks back and several of the younger players who stepped up for the Blues were farewelled from the squad when they returned on Monday.

That was an unfortunate situation of the circumstances but some of those players called on had put their hands up when they hadn't been expected to.

"It's given us confidence that if we do have injuries and we need to call on them we know that they know what to expect and we know what to expect from them," he said.