Once again the All Blacks are sitting handsomely and deservedly at the top of the IRB World Rankings. Steve Hansen’s men continue to play a free-flowing, high offloading, fast style of Rugby that remains superior to any other country. Having viewed an incredibly skilled, physical Springboks side lose to the New Zealanders in the Rugby Championship its plain to see that the Oceanic Kings will be a certain prospect for the European sides they will be facing in the AIs.
Having already swept past the Japanese with a solid 54-6 victory, an All Blacks side with the perfect mix of youth and experience are now looking for a clean sweep of some of Western Europe’s finest in France, England and Ireland. With almost every New Zealand player widely known, it’s especially hard to pinpoint a potential prospect who has crept under the radar. However, 22 year old Auckland Blue, Steven Luatua is a player who has all the attributes to go on to be one of the nations elite. With only minimal Super 15 appearances the former New Zealand U20 also has ITM Cup experience with Auckland and adds versatility and bulk to the already beefy pack.
Luatua offers supreme ball carrying ability to put defences on the back foot. Not only does he have a solid set piece and defensive game, he can play in the Second Row and Back Row. He has plenty of his game to improve open, especially his decision making and consistency of performance, yet its pretty amazing how well this young man has done.
Interestingly, I have a friend who has played against Luatua on a few occasions and he didn’t exactly get the biggest plaudits. He certainly is a prospect with ball in hand, but perhaps it was very much the skills and tactics of his game that needed developing. Well, congratulations to the youngster for improving so quickly and achieving such a great honour of pulling on the black jersey. With 9 caps to his name already, Luatua can become the next Liam Messam or Jerome Kaino and will be the next generation of a dominant All Blacks side, New Zealanders will hope. Named on the bench for the game against France this weekend, I hope Luatua can make an impact and really put the likes of the opposing Back Row, Parra and Tales under pressure.
Here are some highlights of the 6’4, 109kg man.