Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Luatua goes extra mile as loosies fight for position

Steven Luatua is one of seven players fighting for loose forward spots in the All Blacks. Photo / Getty Images
Steven Luatua is one of seven players fighting for loose forward spots in the All Blacks. Photo / Getty Images

Loose forward is one of the most contested of positions at the All Blacks, with seven players going for three positions.

The returning Jerome Kaino has bolstered a line-up already featuring Richie McCaw, Kieran Read, Liam Messam, Steven Luatua, Sam Cane and Victor Vito, so, while it wasn't surprising to see Luatua doing extra training at the end of a field session at the Linwood Rugby Club this morning, the levels to which he was being pushed by All Blacks trainer Nic Gill and coach Steven Hansen were eye-catching.

On a mild, warm morning at the All Blacks training camp in Christchurch, Luatua was virtually out on his feet at the end of it, a mixture of running and circuit exercises appearing to leave him exhausted when most of the other players at the camp were in recovery mode.

"I think Steven asked for some extra fitness work but got more than he bargained for," Hurricanes loose forward Vito said.

Asked if he was encouraging his Blues counterpart, Vito replied: "I think I've been in the same situation doing fitness and I didn't really want too many people watching so I sort of kept my distance."

Vito, back in the fold after losing his place in the squad following last year's June series against France, said it was important to make your mark in this camp and the one starting next weekend in Wellington.

"You definitely can [stake a claim]. Just being more intensive in the meetings you have and being keen to learn. I think it's noticeable if you're here just to cruise around, that's when the other guys start pulling away from you."

He has been more physical for the Hurricanes this season after being told to work on that side of his game by the All Blacks coaches.

"All I can do is go back and keep our Super Rugby hopes alive so the longer we're playing the longer we're in front of their [coaches'] faces. I'm confident that I've worked on those things, but the other side of it is the running game. I've got to try to work on that, I've put a lot of emphasis on the other stuff."

Read made another step today on his way to his recovery from concussion. He was involved in fitness work but not contact after being out for four weeks.

- APNZ

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