Where did it go wrong for All Blacks' cult hero Karl Tu'inukuafe?

Radio Sport, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 31 Jul 2019, 7:51PM
Karl Tu'inukuafe. (Photo / Getty)

Where did it go wrong for All Blacks' cult hero Karl Tu'inukuafe?

Radio Sport, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 31 Jul 2019, 7:51PM

Karl Tu'inukuafe, the All Blacks' moustachioed cult hero, was one of five players who missed the cut in this morning's Bledisloe Cup test squad announcement – possibly spelling a cruel end to one of rugby's feel-good stories.

Tu'inukuafe, affectionately nicknamed Big Karl by fans, rose from relative obscurity and a job as a club bouncer to the bright lights of test rugby within the space of a few months.

But the powerful prop has struggled to replicate the form he enjoyed towards the end of last year – where he showcased his scrum motor and running ability during the All Blacks' end of year tour – after his Super Rugby season was spoiled by a virus.

Meanwhile, loosehead Atu Moli, who has been on the All Blacks' radar for a while now, has risen up to claim Tu'inukuafe's spot after bouncing back from a horrific leg injury.

With the All Blacks needing to cut the number of props in the squad to six for the Wallabies tests, Tu'inukuafe became the unfortunate casualty.

"It's not that he's (Tu'inukuafe) done anything wrong," said All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.

"We've said that we want mobile ball playing props who can also do their core roles.

"We've been on Atu Moli for quite some time. Apart from when he got that nasty injury that kept him out, which was Karl's opportunity.

"We're still pretty keen on Atu and I guess there's only room for six [props] there and we can't take seven so when we get to the World Cup we can only take five, so we've still got some culling to do."

Hansen admitted that mobility, which he said wasn't a strength of Tu'inukuafe, was a factor in the decision.

"When you talk about mobility you talk about people's ability to get back up off the ground, to fend and get back into it and to be a ball player.

"In today's game you need props that can do more than just scrum and lift in the lineout. So that's been our challenge in the last 12 months that we've put to our front-rowers and some of them are progressing really well with it and others are still struggling with it."

While it seems unlikely that the five casualties in the squad – which also include hooker Asafo Aumua, loose forwards Shannon Frizell and Dalton Papalii, and first-five Josh Ioane – will be able to wrestle their way back into World Cup consideration, Hansen left the door open.

"They can jump back in the mix but it's obviously getting harder because we're trying to narrow it down. We've got two big games coming up, then we'll reflect and get it down to 31.

"They'll take the opportunities they get through Mitre 10 Cup and play particularly well. [There] might be injuries. There's a number of things that could arise."

All Blacks squad for Bledisloe Cup


Hookers: Dane Coles, Liam Coltman and Codie Taylor.
Props: Owen Franks, Nepo Laulala, Joe Moody, Atu Moli, Angus Ta'avao and Ofa Tuungafasi.
Locks: Scott Barrett, Jackson Hemopo, Patrick Tuipulotu and Samuel Whitelock.
Loose forwards: Sam Cane, Vaea Fifita, Luke Jacobson, Kieran Read, Ardie Savea and Matt Todd.


Halfbacks: TJ Perenara, Aaron Smith and Brad Weber.
First five-eighths: Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo'unga.
Midfielders: Jack Goodhue, Ngani Laumape, Anton Lienert-Brown and Sonny Bill Williams.
Utility backs: Braydon Ennor and Jordie Barrett.
Outside backs: George Bridge, Rieko Ioane, Sevu Reece and Ben Smith.


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