Riverview Red eyes run-on spot
WHILE he won’t be able to push his claims for a few weeks yet, Tasi Luafutu has set himself the goal of making the number six jersey his own at the Queensland Reds this season.
Luafutu, who lives at Riverview and has played 15 Super rugby games for the Reds, was utilised mostly at open side flanker last year but wants to make the switch to blindside.
Still recovering from a shoulder injury that will keep him out of Saturday’s opening Super 14 match against NSW, the 22-year-old said his goal was to secure a run-on spot with the Reds.
“This year my primary focus is blindside flanker. Me and Scotty Higginbotham have been filling that role,” Luafutu said.
“To be able to play a utility role is beneficial but I really want to be playing some minutes this year at number six. Competition for places is as intense as ever but I can still pretty much play anywhere in the backrow so I know how to mix it up too.”
Reds coach Ewen McKenzie said the make-up of the side this year would suit Luafutu’s aims.
“I probably see Tasi in that space – more as a blindside flanker,” McKenzie said.
“He certainly did some good things as a number seven in the past but in terms of the way the squad is structured, we’ve got on-ballers like Lei Tomiki and Daniel Braid
“We’ve got the capacity to set up a well-balanced backrow with Ezra Taylor and Scott Higginbotham there too. There are some good academy guys coming through too so there will be plenty of competition for places.
“Tasi has got a bit of a shoulder issue at the moment which has slowed him down a little bit. But I am looking forward to seeing how he comes through.”
Originally from New Zealand, Luafutu has been living in the Ipswich area since he was seven.
The former Marist Brothers of Rosalie student made the major state representative teams (Queensland Schoolboys, under-16s and under-19s) while coming through the system and now said he felt right at home under new coach McKenzie.
“It is a different vibe at the Reds this year and all of the boys have taken on board the changes that Ewen has brought in,” he said.
“It should be smooth sailing.”
It is no surprise that Luafutu has modelled his game on former All Black backrower Jerry Collins.
“Jerry’s approach to rugby has always appealed to me,” Luafutu said.
“He was a very no-nonsense kind of guy. Give him the ball and he’d run straight and hard. That is exactly what I need to do – to show up and set a good platform for the backs.
“George Smith is another versatile backrower who possesses the qualities that I hope to aspire to.”