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'Two vacant spots there': Forgotten All Black lock eyeing up international return

By Ben Smith
Patrick Tuipulotu of the All Blacks looks on during the International Test Match between the New Zealand All Blacks and Fiji at Forsyth Barr Stadium on July 10, 2021 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

Returning Blues captain Patrick Tuipulotu didn’t feature at all for the All Blacks in 2023 as a broken arm saw him miss the Rugby World Cup.

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The injury in the late-season derby with the Highlanders came at the worst possible time just a month out from the start of the Rugby Championship.

After taking a sabbatical in 2022 to play in Japan with Toyota Verblitz, Tuipulotu is somewhat of a forgotten figure from the national fold after just two Tests in two years.

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He last featured in an experimental side against Japan in Tokyo in 2022, with the second Test of the Irish series in Dunedin the only other appearance in the black jersey that year.

“During that Super Rugby season I was just starting to find some form and then to have that broken arm at a crucial time pretty much hindered my year,” he told 1News Sport about his injury.

“Came back a bit early and tried to play a few games for Auckland to put my hand up for the World Cup but it just wasn’t to be and I wasn’t ready.

“There’s been a silver lining in that I’ve had a good break and ready to hit this preseason running.”

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The Blues lock has taken back the captaincy role this year as he begins the journey back to the All Black selection. Its a familiar role he previously held in 2019 up until his sabbatical.

With legendary pair Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick heading overseas for a final swansong before retirement, the second row starting jobs appear to be up for grabs.

That hasn’t gone unnoticed for Tuipulotu who is ready to put his hand up for one of the jobs.

With 43 Tests under his belt the 30-year-old is a strong candidate to form a new parternship with Scott Barrett.

“I’ve had a good break now and I’m ready to go,” Tuipulotu said.

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“You look at the calibre of guys who’ve left, there’s two pretty senior locks who’ve gone and two vacant spots there so I definitely want to put my hand up for one of those.”

The 6 ft 6 second rower would add some valuable size to the All Blacks pack to match the power offered by the likes of France and South Africa’s forwards who are on the schedule in 2024.

The All Blacks depth at lock was tested last year whenever the experienced veterans were missing.

 

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1 Comment
J
Jmann 147 days ago

Given his experience he’s a shoe-in for a recall.

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