Departure of legendary All Blacks duo opens the door for Blues star’s Test return

David Skippers
Patrick Tuipolutu All Blacks training 2019 - Alamy.jpg

Patrick Tuipulotu in action during an All Blacks training session.

Experienced second-row and newly appointed Blues captain Patrick Tuipolutu is determined to be part of the All Blacks set-up under new head coach Scott Robertson in 2024.

Tuipolutu is an experienced campaigner who returned to the Blues last season in a bid to play at the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France, after plying his trade in Japan in 2022.

Missed out on World Cup through injury

The 30-year-old failed in that mission as he broke his arm while on Super Rugby Pacific duty with the Blues and reaggravated the injury while playing for Auckland in the National Provincial Championship (NPC).

The All Blacks lost the services of players with more than 500 Test caps of experience after last year’s World Cup, amongst them the legendary second-row duo of Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick, who made 262 international appearances between them.

Replacing players with so much experience will be a difficult task for Robertson but newly appointed Blues captain Tuipulotu is himself a seasoned Test campaigner, having already won 43 All Blacks caps, and is determined to fill the void left by Whitelock’s and Retallick’s departures.

“You look at the calibre of the two guys who have left,” he said. “Two senior locks have gone, so there are two vacant spots there.

“I will try and put my hand up there.”

Tuipulotu admitted that his broken arm proved to be really frustrating as he was in good form when the injury occurred but, despite that setback, Tuipulotu is still remaining positive.

“I suppose there has been a silver lining in that I’ve had a good break and been ready to hit this pre-season running,” he added.

Tuipulotu also revealed that he is glad that he will not have to be playing against Whitelock and Retallick again.

“I’m going to relish it,” he said. “I won’t have to worry about them in the lineout and around the park and in the bottom of rucks.”

The Blues have been boosted by the recruitment of former All Blacks forward coach Greg Feek, who has joined their coaching staff. Tuipulotu believes that will aid the Auckland-based side’s scrum development, as well as helping younger players if they want to advance their game.

“I’m looking forward to what he brings, and he’s already established a great structure for our scrums, and we’ve got guys like Ofa Tu’ungafasi who are yet to come back so I’m looking forward to that as well,” he said.

Backed to make All Blacks return

New Blues head coach Vern Cotter is certain Tuipulotu can regain his All Blacks jersey.

“I think they’ll [All Blacks selectors] be looking very closely at him, he’s what they need with a couple of big players leaving,” he said. “He’s quietly building his way towards the start of the season and you’ll see a great year from him.”

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