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Luatua's decision to leave NZ

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Steven Luatua: 'Sometimes the decision is made for you'

Bristol flanker and former All Black Steven Luatua has shed light on the decision to shift to Europe near the peak of his rugby career.

“It is a reality that if the pay gap is that much more and you can earn two-fold over here and you’ve got a family in mind sometimes the decision is made for you,” Luatua told NZME. “You can earn well in New Zealand and live a good life but our stint in rugby is, if you are lucky, five to 10 years.”

With Premiership club Bristol Luatua reportedly earns around £650,000 (NZD $1.3m) each season, the same as All Blacks captain Kieran Read’s playing wage.

Staying in New Zealand would have seen Luatua net half of that amount if he was lucky. Fellow Premiership-based former All Black Lima Sopoaga recently expressed the opinion that the black jersey is not enough for some players anymore, and Luatua tends to agree with that sentiment.

“With all the awareness around concussion, and awareness in general that we’re not going to play forever, I tend to agree with Lima [Sopoaga] that it will start opening up and guys will start to see the reality that if the pay gap is going to be that much different then you’ve got to look after the family.”

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At 27, Luatua says he wouldn’t trade his time with the All Blacks for anything. Bristol teammate and former All Black Charles Piutau has toyed with the idea of representing Tonga in the future, and there is an opportunity for Luatua to pursue a spot at the 2019 Rugby World Cup with Samoa should he represent the country in Sevens and switch his allegiance, though he hasn’t given it much thought.

“For Charles [Piutau] I think it’s great he wants to represent Tonga and for other guys who have represented New Zealand in the past as well,” he said. “But I made my bed with the All Blacks and I loved my time there and I wouldn’t change anything for it. I have Samoan heritage but I wouldn’t trade in my time with the All Blacks for that at the moment. That’s as far as I see it for now.”

Luatua is also yet to rule out a return to New Zealand like former Blues teammate Ma’a Nonu, who is set to re-join the Blues in 2019.

“If Bristol will have me for the next couple of years I’ll stay and do my time here,” Luatua said. “And then we’ll see what happens.”

Luatua’s Bristol side currently sit 10th on the Premiership table with two wins and four losses. They will next meet Northampton in the opening round of the Premiership Rugby Cup.

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Steven Luatua: 'Sometimes the decision is made for you'