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Blues and All Blacks prop Karl Tu'inukuafe is heading to France

By Sam Smith
Karl Tu'inukuafe. (Photo by Andrew Cornaga/Photosport)

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Karl Tu’inukuafe is calling time on his All Blacks career and will head to France ahead of the 2022-2023 Top 14 season.

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Tu’inukuafe first headed to France in 2015 where he represented Narbonne in the Pro D2. Not long after his return to New Zealand, Tu’inukuafe accelerated through the ranks and earned a temporary contract with the Chiefs, where he proved himself a more than formidable scrummager. Selection for the All Blacks came later in the season and the 29-year-old has been a relatively constant fixture in the national side since.

After an injury-impacted season with the Blues, Tu’inukuafe has now signed for French powerhouse Montpellier, who were recently tipped out of the European Cup in the quarter-final stages by fellow Top 14 side La Rochelle.

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“We would like to announce that Karl will finish his time with the Blues at the end of this season,” The Blues posted on Twitter.

“The ‘Big Uce’ has been a massive part of our squad and its successes over the last 3 years. Toko, we wish you and your family all the best with the next chapter of your life.”

Tu’inukuafe has managed just five appearances for the Blues this year – all off the bench – and likely saw himself slipping down the pecking order of New Zealand front-rowers. With first-choice All Blacks loosehead Joe Moody out injured for the year, Tu’inukuafe still loomed as a possible selection for the team but would have to prove himself ahead of the likes of George Bower, Alex Hodgman, Ethan de Groot and a number of other strong candidates for the No 1 jersey – a significant feat, given there are just five rounds left to play in the Super Rugby Pacific season, including the knockout matches.

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“Pretty much all we did for the whole year was just scrum, scrum, scrum,” Tu’unukuafe previously told RugbyPass regarding his first stint in France. “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 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.”

Montpellier currently sit in pole position on the Top 14 ladder with two rounds left to play.

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