Steven Luatua seems like a pretty quiet guy, but his departure from New Zealand rugby has been making some noise – though none of it has come from him.
It was announced this week that the loose forward is heading to Bristol, the recently-promoted Aviva Premiership side coached by Pat Lam. He takes with him a massive amount of talent, which most Kiwi pundits would feel like he never really showed the full potential of during his 15 tests for the All Blacks.
Luatua’s departure is part of a somewhat worrying trend of All Blacks heading offshore with more than a few miles left on their odometers as far as services to New Zealand rugby is concerned.
“He spoke briefly to the contracts team, and he’s been tapped on the shoulder by Pat Lam which is disappointing too. If you’re an ex-New Zealander you should be a bit mindful about players’ careers.”
That’s the same Pat Lam who was the Blues best coach (record-wise) in the last decade. The same Pat Lam who the Blues fired and virtually sent into exile. And the same Pat Lam who has since guided Connacht from the ‘other guys’ in Irish rugby to a Pro12 title.
So the coach of the All Blacks calling a guy who was born and raised in Auckland, played for the Crusaders and one tour match for the All Blacks, and then had to put up with Mark Anscombe texting him an “ex-New Zealander” is… kind of stupid.
Hansen gets a pretty sweet ride from the New Zealand rugby media, mainly because he doesn’t really say much. When he does, it’s in such a laconic, Kiwi-bloke-who-reminds-us-of-the-good-old-days way that we can all have a laugh about it and not realise it’s more or less a stream of non-information.
But this time ‘Shag’ is being a grade-A hypocrite.
Suggesting Lam is trying to damage New Zealand rugby is a bit rich coming from someone who used to coach Wales. Especially since Wales in the pro era have always been quite reliant on convincing players born elsewhere to come and suddenly discover their Welsh heritage (including, most ironically, Mark Anscombe’s son).
For his part, Lam has responded strongly, saying:
“I believe many New Zealanders would also be offended to be labelled an ‘ex-New Zealander’ by the All Black coach … he has great influence because of his position of privilege and responsibility in representing New Zealand worldwide. Who determines and judges who is a New Zealander and who isn’t? I don’t believe that has ever been the role of the All Black head coach.”
You don’t need a magnifying glass to read the serious beef lingering between those lines.
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