Luatua to bid farewell in Lions clash

Photo: File.

Blues ace Steven Luatua has called on his teammates to produce a performance they can "hang their hats on" against the British and Irish Lions, having already been dumped from Super Rugby contention.

In what will be the Lions' first clash against Super Rugby opposition, both sides will arrive at Eden Park on Wednesday with something to prove.

The Lions, brimming with Test talent, struggled to overcome a semi-professional provincial Barbarians side in their tour opener in Whangarei - the simplest fixture on paper of their 10 matches on Kiwi soil.

The Blues, meanwhile, have known their Super Rugby fate since falling to the Stormers in Cape Town a fortnight ago, and will finish the Kiwi conference last.

Luatua told reporters that, given his side's early elimination, their match against the Lions took on the complexion of a cup final.

A bumper Eden Park crowd would provide the atmosphere to match.

"It's a massive game for this club, for us going forward, and if we can get a result then we can hang our hats on that for this year," the No.8 said, having been named as part of a loose forward trio with Akira Ioane and Blake Gibson.

"This will definitely set the tone for the teams yet to play them, (so) we'll take it as it is and hopefully put a good performance out there.

"If we do the hard yards up front, we know our backs can finish off anyone."

The one-off hitout will mark Luatua's final Blues outing at the Kingsland-based Eden Park, as he prepares to jet off to Bristol at the end of the year.

He'll work under the guidance of former Blues boss Pat Lam at Bristol, in England's second rugby division, and justified his departure by saying it was time for a change of environment and to financially look after his family.

But he may well play one or two more games at Eden Park in a different jumper, with the All Blacks' Lions series squad to be announced on Thursday.

The 26-year-old said he was holding out for a final final call-up to the All Blacks, for whom he already has 15 caps and two Rugby Championships.

"That'll be a great way to get sent off," Luatua said.

"Most (Blues) games I've walked off the field and felt like I've done a decent enough job, especially with our loose forwards.

"I'm always trying to retain my jersey here first."

- NZ Newswire


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