Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Luatua locks in berth for last game

Steven Luatua has said he wants to be "Bigger, faster, stronger" next season. Picture / Hannah Johnstone
Steven Luatua has said he wants to be "Bigger, faster, stronger" next season. Picture / Hannah Johnstone

In a poor Blues season, Steven Luatua has been one of the beacons to have emerged from the embattled franchise.

By nature and instinct the 21-year-old has used his talents as a lock as he has worked his way up the sporting grades.

He will be used once more in that role as the Blues finish their season tonight in Canberra, away from the spotlights of suspicion and disbelief which have followed their course this season.

Luatua's selection at lock is by necessity because the Blues have lost three of their original picks, Ali Williams, Anthony Boric and Filo Paulo to injury and suspension.

Another youngster Liaki Moli will suit up in the second row with Luatua beside him as the Blues search for an elusive victory as an end of season tonic.

Naturally for one starting his Super rugby career, Luatua does not worry where he is selected.

If anything he feels more at ease at lock where his role is very defined and instinctive, and he does not have to check himself as he has on occasions when he has been switched to blindside flanker.

But it is that role he and the future Blues coaching staff are sure to concentrate on for next season.

Luatua and another former head boy at Mt Albert Grammar, Chris Lowrey, have similar physiques, but Lowrey has grabbed the blindside duties tonight for his farewell Blues match before he heads to Japan.

"I always wanted to become a loosie eventually but I wanted to work my way into that role from lock," Luatua said.

"I need to become a little bit fitter and work on a few other things to be able to play loose forward."

Flankers could get exposed at times, there were more opportunities for that to happen, while playing lock was a simpler task.

This year was a mix of sweet and sour for Luatua, the elevation to the Blues was great but the results had been disheartening.

He had emerged from the Blues academy and said that experience had helped him with his discipline, time management and focus.

He was determined to pursue a rugby career as long as his body co-operated and selectors liked what he was producing.

There were plenty of lock-loosies coming through and he would need to keep sharp to pursue his dream of taking over from Blues enforcer Jerome Kaino.

"I hope so, he was my go-to guy for the Blues and All Blacks and always carrying the team forward on attack or defence and I would hope to be that guy in the future," Luatua said.

He was still in his infancy in professional rugby detail but he was breaching the gulf between school rugby and Super 15.

The ITM Cup would be another part of his learning curve then a summer of training and sharpening for what he hoped would be a repeat Blues call-up.

"Bigger, faster, stronger, get chiselled," he laughed as he detailed his plans before heading into his final training season for tonight's clash.

- NZ Herald

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