All Blacks prop Karl Tu'inukuafe linked with a return to France
All Blacks prop Karl Tu’inukuafe has been linked with a return to France seven years after he first went there and learned how to scrummage properly. The 25-cap front-rower spent the 2015/16 season honing his craft with Narbonne in Pro D2 before heading back to New Zealand where his form at North Harbour earned him a 2018 Super Rugby deal with the Chiefs.
Test selection for the All Blacks soon followed for Tu’inukuafe who now plies his trade for the Blues in Auckland. He is out of contract this year, however, and reports have emerged in France that the 29-year-old is wanted by Montpellier, the current Top 14 leaders.
RMC Sport have reported: “Montpellier would like to sign Karl Tu’inukuafe. Discussions exist between the two parties. The experienced New Zealand prop would seriously strengthen the Montpellier pack, which has the advantage of being chaired by Mohed Altrad, new sponsor of the All Blacks, via his eponymous group.
“The Top 14 leaders have almost completed their recruitment for next season with several good picks, including Louis Carbonel, Leo Coly and Ben Lam, but they are still working behind the scenes to strengthen.”
Capped twice off the All Blacks bench in the recent tour games in Wales and Ireland, Tu’inukuafe has yet to break into the Blues’ starting XV in this year’s Super Rugby Pacific tournament. He has appeared on five occasions as a replacement but has been omitted from the matchday 23 for this Saturday’s Eden Park encounter versus the Reds.
"In the back of my mind, it was all about just trying not to get hurt so I could pay my rent."
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) May 15, 2020
It was seven years ago when Tu’inukuafe hooked up with Narbonne and started in six of his 23 appearances for the second-tier French club. That was an experience he recounted at length in a 2020 RugbyPass interview. “When we got to France, it was a huge culture shock for us seeing how rugby players lived. I wasn’t really a full-time professional (until signing for Narbonne), so going there I was like, ‘Man, I’m the man. I’m living like a king over here. Is this what being a professional is like?’
“Pretty much all we did for the whole year was just scrum, scrum, scrum. The running game for us props when I went to France was almost non-existent. We didn’t really carry. We were mostly just hitting the rucks, hitting the mauls, hitting the scrums. It almost changed my whole back because of that season. We would have a scrum session twice a day and it was just 45 minutes of non-stop live scrummaging. I used to come home, pour ice on the floor and lie on it because I couldn’t move.
“It was crazy what I went through at that time, but seeing it now it almost conditioned my back for scrummaging long periods of time. Now, even if I’m completely knackered and dead on the field from running, you put me in the scrum, I’m able to do what I did from the first scrum to the last one.
“Before I went to France, I wasn’t really a scrummager. I got picked up for North Harbour because of my running ability. Then I went to France, learned how to scrum, lost my running ability and came back.”
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