Blues lock in All Blacks duo
TRANSFER NEWS: All Blacks props Karl Tu’inukuafe and Alex Hodgman have re-signed with the Blues ahead of the inaugural 2022 Super Rugby Pacific campaign.
Tu’inukuafe will stay on board with the Auckland-based franchise until the end of 2022, while Hodgman has inked a two-year contract extension.
Retaining the services of the All Blacks duo ensures the Blues will be equipped with one of the strongest propping stocks in the competition.
In addition to Tu’inukuafe and Hodgman, the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman champions also have All Blacks pair Ofa Tuungafasi and Nepo Laulala in their ranks, as well as Maori All Blacks representative Marcel Renata.
A member of the current All Blacks squad, Tu’inukuafe has been part of the Blues set-up since 2019 after making his Super Rugby debut for the Chiefs as an injury replacement the year beforehand.
That same year, he was a surprise call-up to the All Blacks squad for the 2018 mid-year test series against France, again as an injury replacement, and has gone on to play 23 tests for New Zealand since then.
Hodgman, meanwhile, is a veteran of the Kiwi rugby scene, having made his provincial debut for Canterbury in 2014 and his Super Rugby debut for the Crusaders a year later.
Former New Zealand and Fiji U20 representative transferred to the Blues in 2017 and Auckland in 2019 and made his All Blacks debut last year on the back of a standout Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign.
Despite his four test appearances in 2020, Hodgman wasn’t included in this year’s All Blacks squad but remains a contender for future selection at the international level.
Blues head coach Leon MacDonald said the duo are crucial to his side’s game plan and is excited about what they can offer as they look to secure back-to-back titles next year.
“We are blessed to have a group of quality, hard-working props who are the cornerstone of our set-piece. In turn this is fundamental to our ability to develop front-foot possession for our running weapons wider out,” he said.
“They are a hard-working group on the grass and in the gym who challenge each other and learn from one another.”
The recommitment of both Tu’inukuafe and Hodgman to the Blues will also be pleasing for All Blacks boss Ian Foster as their contract extensions provides him with depth leading into the 2023 World Cup in France.