When Akira Ioane made his All Black debut against the French XV, he became the club’s 46th All Black and briefly extended Ponsonby’s advantage at the head of the list of most All Blacks from any club to two – until flanker Dillon Hunt joined him on the field moments later, giving Otago University its 45th national representative.
The Ioane brothers are the second sibling set from Ponsonby to both win All Black honours, after the Solomons of the 1930s. Like the Solomons, who were born in American Samoa (Frank) and Fiji (Dave), the Ioanes were also born in different countries as Akira first saw the light of day in Japan and Rieko in New Zealand.
Akira has been tipped for top honours since his schooldays, when he was a star at Auckland Grammar and, soon after leaving school, for the New Zealand Sevens team. He has made all the national teams going, joining a small group (Adrian Cashmore, Christian Cullen, Caleb Ralph, Dallas Seymour and John Timu are the only others in the club) to represent New Zealand at Schools, Colts, Sevens, Maori and All Black levels. Akira can also claim honours the others cannot, as he has represented New Zealand at sevens in both Commonwealth Games – which some of the others did – and Olympics, which none had the chance to. Short of winning Heartland XV honours, there’s not much left for him to achieve in terms of national teams represented.
He was the 53rd Auckland Grammar School Old Boy to make the All Blacks, extending that school’s lead over all its rivals, and the first Ponsonby player chosen as an All Black loose forward since Mark Brooke-Cowden just over 30 years ago.
Akira is All Black No 1166. His selection also completes a rare and possibly unique achievement for the family, as now both brothers as well as parents Eddie and Sandra are all international players in the 15-a-side game.