Steven Luatua Rugby Championship doubt
July 11, 2013
Steven Luatua made his test debut against France in New Plymouth © Getty Images
Steven Luatua faces a race against time to be available for the opening round of the Rugby Championship against Australia at ANZ Stadium in Sydney on August 17 after the rookie All Blacks backrower sustained a shoulder injury in the Blues' 34-13 Super Rugby loss to the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
Blues coach Sir John Kirwan said the injury was "not real, real bad" but he expected the loose forward to be sidelined for around four weeks. "He just needs to rebuild it again," Kirwan said. "We don't think there's any big damage in there, but there's nothing we can do about it."
Luatua, 22, who made hist Test debut off the bench in the third and final Dave Gallaher Trophy Test against France in New Plymouth in June, is replaced by Kane Barrett in the Blues' final match of the Super Rugby season against the Chiefs at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday.
Kirwan, meanwhile, has made four more changes to his starting XV to face the Chiefs, one positional, with 104-Test veteran Keven Mealamu starting at hooker in place of James Parsons, All Blacks scrum-half Piri Weepu overcoming a rib injury to replace Jamison Gibson-Park, and Rene Ranger moving from wing to centre to give New Zealand Under-20 star Lolagi Visinia the opportunity to make his Blues debut.
Peter Saili is sick and has been bracketed with Brendon O'Connor at No.8
"It's about pride for us," Kirwan said. "We've had a season that we expected and I think if we can finish with a great performance then it's been a real step in the right direction to put this franchise back on track. We all would have loved to have make the play-offs or been in contention this week. That hasn't happened but we've played some great football and we're heading in the right direction so we need to go out there and play for pride and show people that we are a force to be reckoned with going forward."
Blues: Charles Piutau; Frank Halai, Rene Ranger, Francis Saili, Lolagi Visinia; Baden Kerr, Piri Weepu; Peter Saili / Brendon O'Connor, Luke Braid, Kane Barrett; Ali Williams (captain), Anthony Boric; Angus Ta'avao, Keven Mealamu, Sam Prattley. Replacements: James Parsons, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Liaki Moli, Brendon O'Connor / Sean Polwart, Jamison Gibson-Park, Jackson Willison, Marty McKenzie.
© ESPN Australia / New Zealand
John Taylor argues the world's best XVs players must be given a chance to play in the Olympics to increase the appeal of the game
The All Blacks' form is not a peaking issue, but Hansen must threaten to wield his axe, to demand improvement, Craig Dowd writes
"It has been the World Cup that smashed down the gender barriers of the sport." Tom Hamilton looks back at a remarkable tournament
A selection of the best pictures from England's historic World Cup triumph in Paris as they beat Canada 21-9