All Black Luatua signs for ailing Bristol
NEWS: New Zealand forward Steven Luatua signed to play for English Premiership strugglers Bristol next season.
The 25-year-old - capped 15 times by the All Blacks - could well start his spell in England in the second tier.
Bristol are bottom of the table and engaged in a dogfight with Worcester, who are five points clear of them, to avoid being the one team relegated.
Luatua, who regained his place in the All Blacks squad for their November tour of the Northern Hemisphere last year after two years of injury problems, said he was delighted to be committing to Bristol.
"I have a fantastic relationship with Pat [Lam who takes over at Bristol next season as coach] and I enjoyed working with him at the Blues," said Luatua, who played over 60 times for Super Rugby side the Blues.
"I'm looking forward to taking on a new challenge with Bristol and contributing to the long-term vision of the club.
"Bristol is one of the most ambitious clubs in the UK and that's backed up by a really passionate fan base.
"I've heard great things about the environment that is being built there and the plans in place, so I can't wait to get started in the summer," added Luatua, who was also a two-time winner of the Under-20 World Championship in 2010 and 2011.
Bristol's head coach Mark Tainton, who replaced former England and Scotland handler Andy Robinson this season, was ecstatic to have beaten off other clubs to secure Luatua's signature.
"The signing of Steven – beating off competition from a number of high profile clubs – underlines the ambition of Bristol Rugby," he told bristolrugby.co.uk.
"Since bursting onto the scene as a 19-year-old, Steven has been a consistently formidable presence, both at Super Rugby and for the All Blacks.
"He's a hungry, ambitious 25-year old and a standout performer at the very highest level - it's a massive acquisition for us."