There has long been a rhetoric inside the sheds of many a rugby club that the guys on your team are your brothers.
This is something that New Zealand Super Rugby franchises have seen taken to the next level in recent years with the emergence of many powerful rugby families. What’s more important, however, is the fact that many of these siblings have managed to play in the same team as their family members, something that is already proving devastating to their opponents.
In the Super Rugby season opener the Auckland Blues destroyed the Melbourne Rebels by 56-18, helped largely by the fact that teenager Rieko Ioane scored a hat-trick of tries in the match.
His first try just before half-time was very much a solo effort, picking off an intercept to run in from half way. His second again displayed individual brilliance, beating three defenders to score and put the Blues on their way for their biggest ever win in Australia. His third, however, was almost a gift from his brother, Akira, who passed to him metres from the line giving him the hat-trick, the first for the Blues since 2013.
Auckland is far from unique in the fact that they have family members on the same team, and in fact they are outdone by defending champions the Wellington Hurricanes who have both of the Savea brothers, Julian and Ardie, in their set-up as well as two of the four Barrett brothers, Beauden and Jordie.
Julian and Ardie Savea have already proven how well they can play together as they have both helped massively in the Hurricanes’ dominant form over the last two seasons and no one can deny the impact Beauden Barrett has made, but it is still yet to be proven what impact the addition of his brother, Jordie, will make on the side. The belief is there, however, as Jordie was named as an All Blacks “apprentice” on their last northern tour, a position that had previously been given to Ardie Savea before he made his mark in the black jersey.
One has to feel for the third brother, Scott Barrett, who plays for the Crusaders, but if things go to plan they will all be united again in the black jersey.
The other interesting fact about all of these players is just how young the majority of them still are with the oldest of the players named being Julian Savea, who is still only 26 years old. Jordie Barrett and Rieko Ioane are only 19 and so it’s fair to say that you can expect to see a lot of family members playing alongside each other in the black jersey over the next few years.
The Lions tour is now less than 100 days away and the team is far from set. The obvious difficulty with the Lions set-up is getting the combinations right in such a short period of time. It’s a challenging problem to overcome when you throw players from four countries together and put them up against the best team on the planet.
It’s widely accepted that you are only as good as the players around you and sometimes getting to know and understand what your teammates’ playing style is like can be challenging and, more importantly, can take some time.
Time is a luxury the Lions don’t have, especially when they will likely be coming up against players who have the benefit of being on the same team as their family members with whom they have likely played with their whole lives.
Teo Fudakowski, Pundit Arena
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