Steven Luatua's frustratingly stop-start season is about to get back on track.

With Blues coach John Kirwan resting All Black and Blues captain Jerome Kaino, Luatua was today named at No8 to take on the Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday.

A chance to test himself against Kieran Read and Richie McCaw - provided they are playing and aren't under All Black resting orders like Kaino - should be grabbed with both hands by 23-year-old Luatua, who hasn't quite been able to get going in 2015.

His reward for recommitting to the Blues and New Zealand Rugby was to be named on the bench for the win against the Brumbies at Eden Park, and he played no part at all in last weekend's defeat to the Highlanders in Dunedin, Kirwan stating that Luatua's bruises were finally catching up with him.


He has been knocked around - a stinger injury suffered when he threw himself in front of Hurricanes wing Julian Savea in Palmerston North caused Sanzar to ask the Blues if the big loosie had been concussed, but now he should be rested and ready to throw off the shackles which have been holding him back since his debut season in 2013, a year in which he announced himself on the world stage.

He played 11 tests in 2013 but only three last year. There's no doubt the return of Kaino from Japan hampered Luatua's opportunities in the black jersey, but he was also put through the conditioning wringer by coach Steve Hansen after coming up short in terms of fitness and work rate. Hansen's comments to that effect would have hurt, too.

In announcing his decision to stay in New Zealand recently, Luatua said a major factor was the All Blacks.

"I've had a taste of it, and it's one of those things where you just want more.

"I don't want to be a sometime All Black. I want to be an All Black for a long time."

The reality is, though, that he has to make himself hard to leave out. Injury to Read opened the door last year when he played three Rugby Championship tests against Australia and South Africa (twice) and, starting on Saturday at AMI Stadium, he has to make himself indispensable in the first place to Kirwan, who has two in-form flankers in Brendon O'Connor and Luke Braid.

Luatua's main rivals at the All Blacks are probably Kaino, Liam Messam and Victor Vito, all of whom are in form.

Hooker Keven Mealamu will captain the Blues, with Tony Woodcock and Charlie Faumuina will start after all three were named on the reserves bench in Dunedin. Mealamu responded with two tries in the second half, while Faumuina impressed with his pace and footwork.

Francis Saili replaces Pita Akhi, who has a hamstring strain.

The Crusaders are coming off losses to the Chiefs and Highlanders. It's not a good time for Kaino, one of the Blues' best, to have a rest, but it's up to Luatua and co to take up the slack.

15. Lolagi Visinia
14. Frank Halai
13. Francis Saili
12. George Moala
11. Melani Nanai
10. Dan Bowden
9. Jimmy Cowan
8. Steven Luatua
7. Brendon O'Connor
6. Akira Ioane
5. Hayden Triggs
4. Josh Bekhuis
3. Charlie Faumuina
2. Keven Mealamu (c)
1. Tony Woodcock
Reserves: Matt Moulds, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Angus Ta'avao, Culum Retallick, Blake Gibson, Jamison Gibson-Park, Ihaia West, Tevita Li.