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Patrick Tuipulotu to partner former Chief in Verblitz second row

By Tom Vinicombe
Patrick Tuipulotu. (Photo by Brett Phibbs/Photosport)

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The Verblitz have named an all-Kiwi second row for their opening game of the 2022 Japan Rugby League One season, with new recruit Patrick Tuipulotu set to partner former Chief Michael Allardice.

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Tuipulotu featured in five games for the All Blacks last season but didn’t travel with the side to the Northern Hemisphere. While the big second-rower remains on the books of New Zealand Rugby, he will spend the better part of the next five months representing the Verblitz in the new iteration of Japan’s professional domestic competition before returning to NZ to link up with the All Blacks for the mid-year tests.

Second-rowers have been one of the biggest targets of Japanese sides during the off-season, as has been a common occurrence over the past decade. Between the previous and current seasons alone, Tuipulotu, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Jacob Pierce have all left the Blues to link up with League One clubs.

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Lewis Ludlam is on fire.
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Lewis Ludlam is on fire.

As such, it should come as no surprise that Tuipulotu partners Allardice as the Verblitz take on the Shizuoka Blue Revs this weekend. Allardice spent six seasons with the Chiefs, accruing 43 Super Rugby caps, before shifting to Japan last year.

Tuipulotu isn’t the only player to star in last year’s Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final who will feature for the Verblitz this weekend, however, with loose forward Kazuki Himeno returning to Japan after one widely successful season with the Highlanders.

The Simon Cron-coached Verblitz finished second in last year’s Top League Red Conference and fell to the Wild Knights in the semi-finals.

Verblitz: Will Tupou, Yuki Okada, Charlie Lawrence, Male Sa’u, Henry Jamie, Lionel Cronje, Kaito Shigeno, Fetuani Lautaimi, Saint Furukawa, Kazuki Himeno, Patrick Tuipulotu, Michael Allardice, Yusuke Kizu, Yoshikatsu Hikosaka, Shogo Miura. Reserves: Ryusei Kato, Gaku Shimizu, Choi Ryoya, An Yoshida, Taufa Olive, Kenta Fukuda, Tiaan Falcon, Dai Ozawa.

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