WELLINGTON – Powerhouse New Zealand prop Karl Tu'inufuake on Thursday capped his breakthrough season by signing a contract to stay with the All Blacks until 2021.
Under the deal, Tu'inufuake will switch his Super Rugby allegiance from Waikato Chiefs to his hometown team the Auckland Blues.
The loosehead started the season playing domestic rugby but a string of injuries to high-profile props saw him called up to the Chiefs and then the All Blacks.
Tu'inufuake, 25, made the most of his opportunity, helping the All Blacks to a 3-0 series win over France in June.
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said it left the national selectors wanting to see more of the former nightclub bouncer.
“Big Karl really impressed us in his first campaign with the All Blacks in June,” he said. “He's a humble man and very low-key, but he went about his work in a very professional manner. We all saw how destructive he can be as a scrummager but he's also nailing his other core roles.”
Just four years ago, Tu'inufuake was working as a security guard after giving up on his rugby dream.
His weight had ballooned to 170 kilograms (26.8 stone) and he took up the game again to get fit after his doctor warned he was a heart-attack risk.
Blues coach Tana Umaga said Tu'inufuake was a strong addition to the Aucklanders' pack and his achievements would inspire younger players.
“While Karl is comparatively new to the sport at this level, he will provide leadership to our young front rowers emerging in the club,” he said.
Agence France-Presse (AFP)