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Thursday, June 07, 2018

From 170kg security guard to All Black prop, meet new cap Karl Tu’inukuafe

As the rugby world gears up for the start of the June test series this weekend, a few stories have been captivating fans around the globe since squads were announced. Perhaps none more so than that of the rise of freshly-minted All Black prop Karl Tu'inukuafe.

As the story goes, Tu'inukuafe was holding down normal jobs behind a desk and working security for Auckland Live "to get some extra money in...". One thing led to another and his weight got out of control. Weighing in at around 170kg, he was told in no uncertain terms to lose some serious weight or prepare to suffer the consequences of debilitating disease, or worse.

His story is simply incredible. What would anyone do given that choice? Apparently the answer is to go and make the Chiefs and All Blacks. 

The 25-year old Tu'inukuafe decided to spend more time playing Rugby with family in hopes of helping shed the extra weight. Obviously, he's no novice and has made the rounds here and there, with North Harbour among others and even a stint in France.

Eventually, the Chiefs came calling and only a few months ago, he made his Super Rugby debut at Eden Park. All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen is certainly a fan but admits things have gone pretty well for Karl at this point. 

"He's had a few marbles roll his way, the Chiefs looseheads have been dropping like flies all year, but he's stepped up and really done the job."

Like anyone else, he'll be expected to perform, but Hansen seems to think he possesses the tools to be an important contributor.

"I'd never heard of him before he got to the Chiefs, and I don't think the Chiefs had either until they had to go and find him. He just slotted in. That Chiefs scrum is very strong and he's a big part of that."

Tu'inukuafe seems to be an extremely likable and down to earth person, someone who is also genuinely awestruck and thankful for his chance. 

Whether it comes down to pure luck, skill, or a combination of both, this humble and unassuming prop has seized on his unconventional route to a call-up and will make his Test debut no less, off the bench this weekend against France.

New Zealand
15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Sam Whitelock (captain), 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Substitutes: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Vaea Fifita, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Damian McKenzie, 23 Ngani Laumape

France
15 Maxime Médard, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud (captain), 12 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 11 Remy Grosso, 10 Anthony Belleau, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Fabien Sanconnie, 7 Kelian Gourdon, 6 Judicaël Cancoriet, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Paul Gabrillagues, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Camille Chat, 1 Dany Priso
Substitutes: 16 Adrien Pélissié, 17 Cyril Baille, 18 Rabah Slimani, 19 Bernard le Roux, 20 Alexandre Lapandry, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Jules Plisson, 23 Gael Fickou

All Blacks and Karl in the gym ahead of France

Scotty Stevenson and Mils Muliaina talk up Karl on the Short Ball podcast

Credit: One News New Zealand/All Blacks/Getty Images

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