Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: Luatua shares teammates' hopes for new beginning

Steven Luatua (right) knows a thing or two when it comes to going about business quietly. Photo / Getty Images
Steven Luatua (right) knows a thing or two when it comes to going about business quietly. Photo / Getty Images

If everything goes to plan for the Blues on their overseas mission, they will return to New Zealand on May 22 no longer at the foot of the New Zealand Conference.

The master plan is for them to pick up three wins on the road and hope the Highlanders lose to the Chiefs and Crusaders before they take their second bye.

The second part they can't control and the first, given they haven't won away from home since June 2014 and only twice in total since 2013, requires a giant leap of faith to believe it is remotely possible.

But Blues No8 Steven Luatua has made that leap. Since making his Blues debut in 2012, he's known nothing but disappointment and underachievement with the Blues.

He, like many of his teammates, has had enough and sees the next three weeks as one of those transitional points in the club's history. If they are to ever return to being the country's premier rugby destination, then they need to start winning away from home.

And the Blues couldn't have asked for a better schedule to start the process of change. They take on the hapless Kings on Sunday morning and things would have to go spectacularly awry not to win that.

The much improved Lions are next but while they are a solid and reasonably coached outfit, the Hurricanes showed last week that the South Africans are still riddled with flaws and vulnerabilities.

The tour finishes with a stopoff in Perth to play the Force, who, with just one win in 2016, are hardly a giant of world rugby.

"I'm definitely looking forward to playing the teams we have lined up," says Luatua. "I think the last time we won overseas was against the Force in Perth a couple of years ago. Hopefully we can do a number there.

"We can learn from our past mistakes and hopefully this time around, we have the right solutions in place and can get a win overseas.

"If we can get a few points on the road, then we will be in the hunt. A lot of the New Zealand teams are yet to play each other so they should be knocking each other over. Hopefully we can go about our business quietly overseas and coming into June, we should be there or thereabouts."

Luatua knows a thing or two when it comes to going about business quietly without much fuss. That's what he's done this season.

He's been solid rather than eye-catching. He's worked harder than he has in previous seasons and played with accuracy and consistency.

If he's to force his way back into All Black reckoning, he needs to find another gear: to get his hands on the ball more, hit the collision that little bit harder, and make his presence felt that little bit more when he tackles.

His fortunes, then, are aligned perfectly with those of his team. They both face a season-defining three-week period where they have to give more than they so far have.

"The biggest work-on for me is still my defence," he says. "In comparison with other loosies like Jerome [Kaino], I have to catch up. It is the dominance factor - it only [comes for me] in small doses and it has to keep growing as the body gets older."

- NZ Herald

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