Luatua wants international eligibility rethink

Former All Black, Steven Luatua, said World Rugby’s international eligibility laws are in need of a rethink, and has indicated a return to the Blues in future.

The Samoan-New Zealander loose forward discussed a range of topics in an interview with Sky Sport NZ’s Breakdown programme from his home in Bristol, England.

With World Rugby’s Regulation 8 making news due to the body’s chairman Sir Bill Beaumont promising a review of the laws as part of his election campaign, Luatua said there certainly needs to be a discussion had for the betterment of the global game.

“I feel like it would definitely add to those little islands, giving them a little bit of joy in seeing some better players, different players play for their countries,” the 29-year-old said.

Luatua himself would certainly fit that description as a 15-cap All Black inactive on the international scene since he joined English club Bristol Bears in 2017.

Whether or not he can represent the Manu Samoa in time, he said he was keen to return to New Zealand at the end of his time with the Bears (with his current contract expiring in 2021).

"One of my goals was always to come back and play 100 games for the Blues – I think I'm 20 or 30-odd short so that's a couple seasons," Luatua said.

"If they'll take an old-timer, or someone off the bench, then I'd be happy to come and fill that role; locker-room banter, I'm there for it."

It’s far from a case of itchy feet for the 74-game Blues man though; he said the move to England has turned out exactly as he hoped.

"At the time when I was looking for new opportunities, it was either here or Japan,” Luatua said. 

“I leaned towards here because I still wanted to grow in my rugby and the game being different here I feel like I have.

“In the three years that I’ve been here, I’ve definitely defended and been in a lot more mauls than my entire time in New Zealand.”

Luatua was captaining Bristol to third place in the 2019/20 Premiership Rugby season before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the suspension of play after 13 rounds.

Holding that position in the table would result in the club’s best season since 2006/07.

Exactly when play is able to resume remains unclear, and many English clubs are facing the prospect of bankruptcy with no revenues from ticket sales and broadcast rights coming in.

The Bears are in better shape than most to ride out the crisis thanks to billionaire owner Stephen Lansdown.

“There is stability [in the English club game], but I say that from a Bristol Bears perspective,” Luatua said.

“I know with other clubs, the relationship between players and what’s happened from the owner’s perspective isn’t as great.”

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