All Blacks lock Patrick Tuipulotu returns to the Blues for the 2023 Super Rugby season, with the northern franchise also signing Rob Rush, the son of former All Black and sevens great Eric Rush.
Tuipulotu, set to captain the All Blacks XV on their northern tour but who has been called into the All Blacks in Japan to cover for the absences of Scott Barrett (family bereavement) and Sam Whitelock (inner ear problem), is back at the Blues after a stint in Japan.
Rush, 21, is a blindside flanker for Northland.
“As a newbie to the squad, I can’t wait to pick the brains of those who’ve been around the barracks for a while," he said. "At the same time, I’m not going to back down to them. I can’t wait for everything to kick off.”
Blues coach Leon MacDonald said Rush’s selection was reward for his performances in the NPC this year.
“Rob had a really good season for Northland and has honed his craft in the Blues region for many years now,'' MacDonald said. “He is a real physical presence on the side of the scrum and has an immense engine and work-rate. We’re excited to see what he can do in a Super Rugby environment.”
MacDonald has named a largely settled squad which includes rising sevens star Caleb Tangitau.
Rush and outside back Tangitau are the only new names to the Blues squad for 2023.
Tangitau represented the All Blacks Sevens in 2022 - winning a bronze medal at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games and most recently a silver medal at the 2022 Rugby World Cup Sevens.
Locks Luke Romano and Josh Goodhue have not been listed. Romano, a former Crusader, impressed this year at the Blues. Goodhue has signed for a Japanese club.
The Blues haven't named a captain but it's likely to be loose forward Dalton Papali'i.
Forwards: Adrian Choat (Auckland), Sam Darry (Canterbury), Kurt Eklund (Bay of Plenty), Josh Fusitu’a (Auckland), Alex Hodgman (Auckland), Akira Ioane (Auckland), Nepo Laulala (Counties Manukau), James Lay (Auckland), Dalton Papali'i (Counties Manukau), Taine Plumtree (Wellington), Marcel Renata (Auckland), Ricky Riccitelli (Taranaki), Tom Robinson (Northland), Rob Rush (Northland), Anton Segner (Tasman), Hoskins Sotutu (Counties Manukau), Cameron Suafoa (North Harbour), James Tucker (Waikato), Patrick Tuipulotu (Auckland), Ofa Tuungafasi (Northland), Soane Vikena (Auckland).
Backs: Beauden Barrett (Taranaki), Finlay Christie (Tasman), Caleb Clarke (Auckland), Corey Evans (Auckland), Taufa Funaki (Auckland), Bryce Heem (Auckland), Rieko Ioane (Auckland), AJ Lam (Auckland), Sam Nock (Northland), Stephen Perofeta (Taranaki), Harry Plummer (Auckland), Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens (Taranaki), Zarn Sullivan (Auckland), Caleb Tangitau (Auckland), Mark Telea (North Harbour), Tanielu Tele’a (Auckland), Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Auckland).