JOHN DAY: Steven Luatua's made the right call to leave New Zealand Rugby

14/02/2017
Normally a current All Black leaving at the age of 25 would be a massive loss to New Zealand Rugby.

But in the case of 15-test loose forward Steven Luatua, his departure to English club Bristol after the Super Rugby season isn’t a big deal.

When he burst onto the international scene in 2013, it looked as though the All Blacks had found a special player with power, skill, and size.

Four years on, even Luatua himself concedes he’s not quite cut out to be a great All Black by deciding to leave in the prime of his career.

It’s strange timing for Luatua to pull the pin after the All Blacks selectors recalled him for last year’s end of year tour, where he made just one appearance, in the 68-10 win over Italy in Rome.

Coach Steve Hansen made it clear he wanted to see more aggression out of Luatua, who has all the other skills in the world, but the affable Aucklander clearly feels like he hasn’t delivered in that area.

With veteran enforcer Jerome Kaino and captain Kieran Read locking down the blindside and number eight positions respectively, and Highlanders loosies Liam Squire and Elliot Dixon making strong impacts at Test level, it’s should come as no real surprise that Luatua’s given up the fight for the black jersey.

Add to that the emergence of fellow Blues dynamo Akira Ioane and the consistently bruising efforts of Jordan Taufua at the Crusaders and Brad Shields at the Hurricanes, New Zealand Rugby is well served in the six and eight jerseys.

It’s just a bit of a shame that Luatua was never able to push on and be that consistent world-class player that so many people thought he could be, and still might be, but it will be in Europe instead of New Zealand.