France plan to ‘block’ All Blacks’ swoop for wonderkid as tug-of-war intensifies

Colin Newboult
Patrick Tuifua following France U20s Six Nations clash with Ireland.

Patrick Tuifua following France U20s Six Nations clash with Ireland.

France are seeking to deny the All Blacks the opportunity of selecting highly regarded youngster Patrick Tuifua by potentially tying him down in July.

The 19-year-old is currently only qualified for Les Bleus after being born in the French territory of New Caledonia, but he is currently plying his trade in New Zealand.

Tuifua, who turns 20 in August, will be eligible on residency grounds next year after earning a scholarship at Lindisfarne College in the Hawke’s Bay region in 2020.

He has since played for Hawke’s Bay in the NPC and represented the Hurricanes at age-grade level, but the back-row was called up for the France U20 squad during the recent Six Nations tournament.

The flanker, who can also feature at number eight, played in two matches against the Ireland and Scotland age-grade teams before returning to New Zealand.

France or All Blacks?

There are reports that Tuifua would prefer to play for the All Blacks, but the French are hoping he commits to Les Bleus going forward.

As a result, there are suggestions that Fabien Galthie wants to cap him on their tour to South America in July, where they will take on Argentina and Uruguay.

“He is selectable, that’s a fact,” French Rugby Federation (FFR) vice-president Jean-Marc Lhermet told Midi Olympique.

“But the problem concerning him is twofold. First, there is indeed his choice which has not been made.”

“If we take him on tour, it is to make him play and if he plays, he will then be blocked by France. It is our wish, our will and he knows it.

“Fabien (Galthié) spoke about it with him during the last U20 Six Nations tournament.”

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U20 rugby or senior call-up?

Tuifua could also feature in the World Rugby U20 Championship, which is being held in South Africa and takes place at the same time as France’s mid-year series.

It runs from June 29 to July 19 and is an option for the back-row, but Lhermet would like to see the most promising young players head to South America with the main squad.

“The French U20 team is going to play its World Cup in July. Like Tuifua, there are five or six young people who could also apply for the tour in Argentina,” he said.

“Do we take them or do we leave them available to the juniors? This is the other question we ask ourselves.

“There are discussions between Fabien Galthié, the DTN (national technical director) and the U20 staff with the ‘big guys’. For young players with high potential, priority should be given to the tour of Argentina for the French XV.”

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