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New All Black Quinn Tupaea's take on his senior midfield partner

By Tom Raine
Quinn Tupaea is chased by Rieko Ioane, Chiefs v Blues, Super Rugby Aotearoa. FMG Stadium, Hamilton. New Zealand. Saturday 27 March 2021. © Copyright Photo: Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.nz

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Quinn Tupaea is considerably more excited at the prospect of having Rieko Ioane beside him on a pitch as opposed to in front of him.

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The 22-year-old Chiefs player has had a whirlwind few weeks, first earning selection to Clayton McMillan’s Maori All Blacks squad, before an All Blacks call up came just a week later.

Now, he finds himself thrust straight into the action starting from 12, as the All Blacks prepare to take on Tonga at Mt Smart stadium this weekend.

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Recalled All Blacks loose forward Luke Jacobson has faced a tough 18 months.

Tupaea has always shown considerable promise as player. A former New Zealand Secondary Schools captain and New Zealand U20s representative, the young man was highly impressive in his seven appearances for the Chiefs in 2021. A hard worker, who always seeks to bring intense physicality to a side whether it be in attack or defence, Tupaea recovered well from a mid-season knee injury to return for the latter half of Super Rugby Trans-Tasman – and the Chiefs were better for it.

Despite his brief absences, Tupaea was still able to form an especially solid partnership in the centres alongside Anton Lienert-Brown, something that opposition defenders, Ioane included, were certainly made aware of.

“I think you saw the combination that they had going with him [Tupaea] and Lienert-Brown” said Ioane at a press conference on Thursday. “Quinn was playing really good footy for the Chiefs, he’s a big part of the reason that they started to come right, especially after last year. He’s a young kid with growing confidence, he’s got good footwork and he’s a good carrier.”

True enough, Tupaea was a prominent feature in the Chiefs victory over the Hurricanes back in March, a win that not only overturned an 11-match losing streak for the Hamilton-based franchise, but also served as the catalyst for a run of victories that saw the Chiefs eventually reach the Super Rugby Aotearoa final.

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Lining up alongside the 33-cap Ioane to form an all new All Blacks midfield is not a bad prospect for any new kid on the block either and Tupaea was complimentary of his teammate, who featured in every one of the Blues games in 2021.

When asked how what his opinion on his more experienced teammate was prior to joining the All Blacks squad, Tupaea had to think carefully before responding.

“Rieko’s a competitor,” he eventually quipped. “So always playing against him was pretty tough. He’s a special player and you never want to give him the outside or let him run straight at you.”

Indeed the stats provide ample evidence for  Tupaea’s words, Ioane this year featured in the top ten players for clean breaks, metres carried and offloads in Super Rugby Aotearoa from 13, and was instrumental in the Blues’ run to an historic first Super Rugby title in 18-years.

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Above all however, the pair seem excited at the opportunity to forge a new partnership, and with such danger in the midfield don’t be surprised if the ball finds its way to them early on in this weekend’s game.

“It’s going to be awesome come Saturday night,” Ioane said.

The All Blacks play Tonga on Saturday 3rd July at 7.05pm NZT.

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New All Black Quinn Tupaea's take on his senior midfield partner

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