Akira Ioane's mental health battle after All Blacks RWC snub

Perennial All Blacks prospect Akira Ioane has revealed his private battle with mental health after being omitted from the 2019 World Cup.

Ioane, who made his representative debut for New Zealand as 19-year-old at the Wellington Sevens in 2014, has long been heralded as an elite prospect but has yet to make the leap to test level.

After a roller-coaster season with the Blues in 2019, former All Blacks coach Steve Hansen left Ioane out of the squad, citing his fitness and attitude as road-blocks to his inclusion.

“He’s a tired athlete. Did we see the best of him? I don’t think we did in Super Rugby and other people played particularly well and put themselves in front of him. We know what’s under the surface but we just need him to take ownership of that and turn up and say ‘I’m in’. Once he does that I’m sure he’ll get selected one day.”

The next time we saw Ioane in action was the Mitre 10 Cup, where the 24-year-old says he struggled to find the motivation to play. “In the Mitre 10 I had a little bit of time off and came back and wasn’t really enjoying rugby,” Ioane told Radio Sport in New Zealand.

“It was one of those years where I wasn’t really enjoying it and over-doing it, trying too hard to impress the wrong people.”

At that point, Ioane took a break from rugby to reflect on what exactly may have been affecting his performance. “A lot of things built up over the years. It’s been real full-on for the last five years, you can see why people take breaks, mentally refresh.”

Ioane realised that he had been giving undue weight to the opinions of fans and media, people who did not understand his life and journey and he needed to shut them out of his mind.