Patrick Tuipulotu playing against Ireland in 2016. Billy Stickland/INPHO

Whitelock injury is a big blow for the All Blacks ahead of second Ireland clash

29-year-old Patrick Tuipulotu is now part of the New Zealand squad.

WHILE SECOND ROW Sam Whitelock didn’t deliver his most consistent Super Rugby campaign ever this year, he came right at the perfect time.

The 33-year-old Crusaders lock was a dominant figure in the final against the Blues, leading a relentless assault on their lineout and also chipping in with three breakdown turnovers as he underlined his enduring class.

Whitelock carried that form into last weekend’s first All Blacks Test against Ireland, helping the Kiwi pack to get on top of their counterparts at Eden Park.

But the experienced two-time World Cup winner will be missing for this weekend’s second Test and almost certainly the third Test too, having been diagnosed with a delayed onset concussion in the wake of last weekend’s 42-19 win over Ireland.

Adding to the frustration for All Blacks boss Ian Foster is the fact that Chiefs lock Tupou Vaa’i has tested positive for Covid-19, meaning he is also out of this weekend’s clash in Dunedin.

Having already lost 21-year-old second row Josh Lord to injury, New Zealand have now called up the experienced Patrick Tuipulotu to their squad. 

29-year-old Tuipulotu is back home after a season in Japan and returns to the All Blacks fold sooner than expected.

Foster could move Scott Barrett into the second row after he impressed at blindside flanker in the first Test, particularly given that there are other strong options in the back row in Dalton Papali’i, Akira Ioane, Hoskins Sotutu, and Pita Gus Sowakula.

sam-whitelock Whitelock was diagnosed with delayed onset concussion. Photosport / Marty Melville/INPHO Photosport / Marty Melville/INPHO / Marty Melville/INPHO

Whatever way the Kiwi selection goes, losing Whitelock is an obvious blow.

“It’s not ideal,” said captain Sam Cane. “Sammy was awesome at the weekend and to become the second-most capped All Black of all-time was hugely impressive. We will no doubt miss his leadership and what he brings.

“Tupou had been playing well all of Super Rugby, hanging out for his opportunity so it’s a tough pill for him to swallow.

“But in terms of replacements, to have a 40-Test All Black in Patrick Tuipulotu to call in, he trained with us last week as well which was awesome and he’s up to speed. He will slip in pretty seamlessly.”

Whitelock is the All Blacks’ lineout leader and after they had just a 78% success rate on their own throw last weekend, that is set to be a crucial area of the second Test against Ireland.

Brodie Retallick is now set to take over as the primary lineout caller.

“Sammy runs our lineout particularly well and Brodie will sort of just take over that mantle,” said Cane.

“He did that for the majority of the Rugby Championship last year so he’s looking forward to doing that. It’s crazy that he’s played 90-odd Tests and his locking partner has always been the one who has done it. But he’s done it in Super Rugby time and time again. Other than that, it’s business as usual.”

all-blacks-brodie-retallick-with-irelands-robbie-henshaw-and-tadhg-beirne Retallick is set to call the All Blacks' lineout.

It remains to be seen what part the powerful Tuipulotu plays in this Test series, having been given what was a surprise call-up.

“I wasn’t expecting to get a call in this early,” said Tuipulotu. “I was at home pretty much getting Pārma [his daughter] ready and I got a call from John Plumtree [the All Blacks' forwards coach] asking if I would be available to come in.

“It was quite a messy morning! Phoe [Phoenix Karaka, his partner who plays netball for New Zealand] had been in camp since Sunday with the Silver Ferns in Wellington so she gets home today and she will be with the little one. I had to call my parents over, they were over pretty quick, so I’m grateful my family can help out.”

Tuipulotu played 80 minutes for club side Ponsonby last weekend and is now keen to help New Zealand ahead of the second Test. 

“I’m very energised,” he said. “I haven’t had a good history with Ireland. The first time I played against them was the first time we lost against Ireland in USA. 

“Ireland are a very good side now and we’ve seen that in their wins against the All Blacks. I’ve got to do my bit to put my hand up and if not, I’ve got to do my bit to help the team prepare and get ready for a good Ireland team who are on the back foot after last week.”

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