Patrick Tuipulotu is one of two current All Blacks squad members to be granted permission to play in this weekend’s round of Mitre 10 Cup matches but only last week the big second-rower was quarantined at home.

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The Blues captain hasn’t played since early September when the North Island were pipped by the South Island in the one-off exhibition match. With the All Blacks set to square off with the Wallabies next month, Tuipulotu can hardly afford to sit out every match in the provincial competition.

Tuipulotu missed Auckland’s opening win of the season against Otago with an Achilles problem while last week, the towering lock was struck down by a flash cold.

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In the current, understandably cautious climate, Tuipulotu wasn’t going to be taking any chances. The big lock quarantined at home and took a COVID test before he was able to return to training.

“With the restrictions now you’ve got to make sure everything is pretty clear,” Tuipulotu told Stuff in the lead-up to his side’s match with Manawatu. “I took all the precautions, stayed home, had a test, it came back negative …. Any runny nose or cough can be a bit scary these days, so I made sure I followed all the right protocols.”

Thankfully, Tuipulotu was healed up in time to link up with the All Blacks training camp in Whakatane last weekend.

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Still, training is a far cry from actually playing a match and Tuipulotu has admitted that he’ll need some decent minutes under his belt before he’s ready to play international rugby next month.

“I thought it was best to get some game-time just to get some rugby in really,” Tuipulotu said. “It’s been a couple of weeks coming up [without rugby] and I didn’t want to be too under-done.”

With Crusader Scott Barrett likely unavailable for the All Blacks’ opening two games of the year, new coach Ian Foster will be desperate for Patrick Tuipulotu to be fit and firing for the series. Sam Whitelock is the only other experienced second-rower in the side with uncapped Quenten Strange and Tupou Vaa’i possibilities to play their first matches.

Vaa’i will line up for Taranaki in this weekend’s Mitre 10 Cup round while Tuipulotu will play for Auckland.

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