After some poor early season form cost him his starting place at the Blues, Steven Luatua has re-emerged as an All Blacks contender.
After some poor early season form saw him losing his starting place at the Blues, Steven Luatua has re-emerged as an All Blacks contender.
Luatua delivered some of his best performances of the year during the latter stages of the Blues' season, and his efforts against the Western Force and Crusaders showed signs of the form that saw him playing in nine Tests for the All Blacks in 2013.
Blues coach Sir John Kirwan was also impressed with his performance in their final match against the Chiefs, saying Luatua played exactly like a blindside flanker should in that clash.
He'll have to wait and see if he makes the All Blacks' Rugby Championship squad which will be announced after the Super Rugby final on August 2.
“I could have run that bit harder and made a few more tackles so I'm not entirely comfortable with how I played,” Luatua told the New Zealand Herald.
Although the 23-year-old did not make the the initial All Black squad for the England series, he was selected when Kieran Read was battling to overcome his concussion problems.
That call-up filled Luatua with confidence and inspired him into a better head space.
“My involvement was on a week-to-week basis and, when they called me back for the second week, that was a big boost to my confidence,” he said.
“I felt that, while I was in camp with the All Blacks, I gave a good account of myself. I was putting my hand up to be involved.”
Luatua can be creative and destructive when he is played into space out wide. During the ealry part of this season he wasn't able to get out to the touchline and play where he's most effective.
“I guess you could simplify it all by saying I wasn't fit enough,” he added.
“I had a lot of desire and intent, but it came down to me being able to carry that out.
“I thought I had worked pretty hard but it was apparent that, when I came back after January, I hadn't.”
After suffering from what is commonly referred to as Second Season Syndrome, Luatua is hoping his year ends off much better than it started.
“Hopefully I can make it back to the All Blacks,” he said.
“But if not, then I'd be pretty excited about playing for Auckland doing what I can there to force my way back for the end-of-year tour.”