Steven Luatua admits the prospect of representing his country with the British & Irish Lions tour looming large was too good to turn down, after signing a new contract with New Zealand Rugby and the Blues until the end of the 2017 season.
The All Blacks lock was not selected for New Zealand’s end of 2014 fixtures, but he has shown his desire to play Test rugby by committing himself to his country over the next two years.
And if all goes to plan the 23-year-old, who has 14 international caps, will be nearing his prime when the Lions roll into town in the summer of 2017.
Indeed, Luatua admits staying in New Zealand was the only way to fulfil his burning international ambitions.
“Part of the reason I’m staying behind is the pull of the black jersey. I’ve had a taste of it and it’s one of those things where you just want more,” said Luatua.
“I don’t want to be a sometime All Black. I want to be an All Black for a long time.
“There are a lot of things I haven’t accomplished yet so I’m looking to tick those things off before ever looking overseas.
“I’m looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead and especially the challenge we have at hand in trying to turn the ship around at the Auckland Blues.
“This is where I believe I’ll grow as a rugby player and as a man, so this is where I’ll be.”
Be part of the biggest Tour in the world and register your interest in travelling with the British & Irish Lions to New Zealand in 2017