Patrick Tuipulotu targets All Black return this season

Patrick Tuipulotu targets All Black return this season

Lock Patrick Tuipulotu is eyeing a return to the New Zealand starting line-up in 2024.

Returned to the captaincy role with the Blues for Super Rugby Pacific, Tuipulotu is keen to pick up his international career after injury prevented him from being part of last year's Rugby World Cup squad.

His experience gained since his Test debut in 2014 could be a helpful factor in reshaping the All Blacks squad under new coach Scott Robertson, as he brings through players to replace Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick, who retired from Test rugby after the World Cup.

Tuipolotu knows that Super Rugby Pacific form goes a long way towards convincing the selectors he still has something to offer, and he is keen to see the Blues go all the way after disappointing playoff performances in the last two seasons.

But as far as his Test goals go, he said, "You look at the calibre of the two guys who have left. Two senior locks have gone, so there are two vacant spots there. I will try and put my hand up there."

His broken arm last year frustrated his plans for the season. He had been in good form when the injury occurred.

"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," continued the 43 Test veteran.

At the same time, he said he would not miss playing against Whitelock and Retallick.

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

With former All Blacks forward coach Greg Feek joining the Blues coaching group, Tuipulotu saw that as an advantage for the side's scrum development and in younger players seeing and experiencing the demands if they wanted 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'ungasi who are yet to come back so I'm looking forward to that as well."

Incoming Blues coach Vern Cotter was convinced that Tuipulotu could 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's quietly building his way towards the start of the season and you'll see a great year from him."

READ MORE: Bok legend Naas Botha on why going to NFL from rugby is no easy touchdown