All Blacks vs Argentina: the pressure is strong as Patrick Tuipulotu leads the new wave


Emotions are sure to swirl for Patrick Tuipulotu this week as he returns to the All Blacks by taking office alongside a young man he rightly considers a protégé.

The 28-year-old Blues skipper is part of a brand new look and has 11 starting XV changes in the All Blacks lineup of Ian Foster looking to go four-on-four in the rugby championship against the Argentina Saturday night in Brisbane.

This in itself brings a heightened sense of responsibility and anticipation. Will the new men be able to continue the momentum of the group that blanked the Pumas 39-0 on the Gold Coast last Sunday? Can they avoid the banana peel that often awaits teams after this degree of change?

Patrick Tuipulotu: 'This week, I have my chance.  I have to let my actions speak and play well.

Andrew Cornaga / Photosport

Patrick Tuipulotu: ‘This week, I have my chance. I have to let my actions speak and play well.

Then there’s the pressure that comes from trying to match the high level set by Brodie Retallick and Scott Barrett on the second row in the last two outings. Tuipulotu, with his 38 test caps and his career stretching back to 2014, is well equipped to take on this challenge, but he is aware on many levels of the young man he will have by his side as a second-placed player. 21 year old. All Black Tupou Vaa’i.

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“It’s pretty cool to see where he’s from,” Tuipulotu remembers of one of the All Blacks “quiet men”. “I heard about him for the first time when he came around the Blues. I think he was playing under-20s, and he mentioned then that I was his favorite player.

“For me, for someone to say that about me, it brings me back to the time when I admired Jérôme Kaino. He was my favorite player, and when I walked into the environment and played with him and trained with him, I was in awe and really enjoyed it. I’m not quite up to JK’s status but I like playing with him (Vaa’i).

And Tuipulotu feels a certain responsibility for the young man with whom he will start his second event (they were the second row in a row for the victory over the Wallabies at Eden Park last year). “Tupes reminds me to grow up and come to this team,” he added. “I want the best for him. If that means I need to show him a few things, this is definitely the way to go.

Patrick Tuipulotu overcame a groin injury and has his chance against Argentina on Saturday night.

Andrew Cornaga / Photosport

Patrick Tuipulotu overcame a groin injury and has his chance against Argentina on Saturday night.

The Aucklander murderer has struggled since the All Blacks crossed the Tasman, facing a groin strain that has ruled him out so far. But he’s done the work of rehab and fitness, and is excited to add to his three test appearances this year (including two off the pine).

“This week I have my chance,” he said. “I know the other guys played well so I still have to put my hand up. There is not much I can do but let my actions speak and play well against a good Argentinian team.

And Tuipulotu is certainly no stranger to returning from a mid-campaign injury.

“I know what is expected… everyone has a job and I guess my job was to readjust and correct themselves. The job description is different this time around and I can put on the jersey and go out and play.

With that comes a very real pressure to make the most of the opportunity offered by the All Blacks.

“We have guys like Brodie and Scott playing world class rugby, and that will only push me to do my best. When you say competition, you look at these two, and for me there is a big gap. But it’s something that puts me on the edge of my seat and gives me something to work towards.

New Zealand Rugby

Appointed to debut in the No. 10 jersey against the Pumas, Damian McKenzie says he is now the “bus driver”.

The big lock is questioned about the “complexity” of making a comeback in the midst of such widespread change. Just Jordie Barrett, George Bridge, Rieko Ioane and TJ Perenara return from the Gold Coast.

“Everyone was selected for this team for a reason: they can play. What we’re emphasizing here is that you just have to do your own job and don’t have to worry about anyone. For me, it’s about calling the rosters, moving around the park, and tackling and cleaning up. Everyone has a job description, and we know if you don’t do your part, you’ll be told.

Tuipulotu will be one of the All Blacks tasked with bringing the physical presence this week. Much like Nepo Laulala did last Sunday when he threw that first hit that set the tone for New Zealanders.

“We’re all aware of what Nepo did there and how he set the tone,” said the senior lock. “Everyone is eager to do the same… we wanted to be physical, and seeing that right off the bat you could feel the energy building in the group. He set the tone for the full 80s. “

The New Boys will look for a similar kickoff on Saturday night at Suncorp.


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