Steven Luatua's decision to join Bristol later this year felt like a bad idea when he announced it six weeks ago. Now, it looks like a really bad idea - absolutely the wrong call for him to have made.

Bristol have been relegated from the English Premiership which means Luatua, who says he is 100 per cent committed to still going to England and doesn't have an opt out clause, will be playing against mostly semi-professionals when he gets there in August.

He will be playing in a league which would sit somewhere between the Heartland Championship and Mitre 10 Cup.

It's time to be blunt and say that joining Bristol is a chronic waste of his talent. It's also time to challenge the notion that he's heading north because he's been made a once-in-a-lifetime financial offer.


Bristol, backed by a former City high-flyer, have thrown a huge amount of money at Luatau. He'll earn maybe three times as much in England as he will in New Zealand, so it's easy to understand the pull.

It's also easy to understand the responsibility he feels to provide for his wider family. He knows the level of sacrifice not just his parents have made to help him to where he is, but also his sisters.

He wants to make their lives easier, have more money to be a more significant contributor to the family unit. As he told the Herald, if he stayed in New Zealand he'd be able to set himself up with a good life: go to Bristol and he can set up everyone in his family.

But that's not quite the full story because history has shown and every other indicators suggests, that he could be worth twice or three times as much in a few years.

Whatever Bristol are offering now could be dwarfed by what they and a host of other clubs would be willing to pay for Luatua after the next World Cup.

Offers in sport are never once-in-a-lifetime, certainly not for an athlete such as Luatua who is only 25 and quite obviously on the improve.

And that is the kicker in all this - Luatua is emerging as a player of significant interest. He's doing the things he was asked by the All Blacks coaches and doing them well.

If he had committed to New Zealand, there's no doubt he'd be on track, given his form, to being a regular All Black. If he keeps playing as he is, he'd be part of their set-up through to the next World Cup and inevitably by 2019 have enough caps and exposure to the global market to name his price.

Against the Hurricanes last weekend, he hit hard when he tackled and carried with a mix of athleticism and brutality.

It was an impressive 70 minutes especially so given that he hadn't trained all week due to an infected toe.

On the selection spreadsheet updated weekly by the All Blacks selectors, it's a fair guess there wouldn't be much between Luatua and Liam Squire right now, who has re-signed with the Highlanders and NZ Rugby for two more years. Or at least there wouldn't be if Luatua was staying.

The All Blacks will likely pick other players who are due to leave - Aaron Cruden and Charlie Faumuina - in their squad to play the Lions, but probably not Luatua.

His case is different because what the All Blacks are after is a long-term successor to Jerome Kaino.

The Blues veteran has got some miles left on the clock, but how many, no one can be sure. The selectors know they need another option at blindside, but there's not much point in investing time in Luatua.

Perhaps when Bristol came calling earlier this year, Luatua needed to be selfish - put his career first which in time, could have allowed him to have become an even better provider to his wider family.