From unwanted at Super Rugby level to an All Blacks debutant, it’s been a meteoric rise for the Chiefs prop Karl Tu’inukuafe, who’s been named on the bench for this weekend’s first test against France at Eden Park.
Beauden, Jordie and Scott Barrett will all start, creating history as the first trio of brothers to make an All Blacks Test starting XV.
Luke Whitelock takes the highly contested No.8 position, in place of the injured Kieran Read, while brother and lock Sam Whitelock will captain the side in Read’s absence.
Sam Cane and Liam Squire are the other starting loose forwards.
Jordie Barrett starts at fullback with Ben Smith and Rieko Ioane on the wings and Ryan Crotty and Anton Lienert-Brown in the midfield.
Damian McKenzie wins the battle to back up first-five Beauden Barrett on the bench, with Ngani Laumape the other backs cover.
The front row is also bolstered by the return of Owen Franks and Joe Moody, with Codie Taylor at hooker and Scott Barrett the other lock.
Ofa Tuungafasi and Nathan Harris are the other front row run-on replacements.
Vaea Fifita and Ardie Savea will provide loose forward impact off the bench.
In-form winger Waisake Naholo misses out on the matchday 23.
Tu’inukuafe is set to make his test debut from the bench, capping a remarkable rise into the national side after virtually giving up on rugby four years ago.
Tu’inukuafe was ordered to lose weight by a doctor after he ballooned to 170kgs and was only called into the Chiefs side this season after injury forced out all their originally contracted props.
Coach Steve Hansen said Tu’inukuafe thoroughly deserves his spot.
“He has had a couple of breaks probably when you think about what has happened at the Chiefs with their front rowers, but he has come in and done the job for them,” Hansen added.
“The Chiefs are the number one scrummaging side in Super Rugby and Karl is a big part of that so he became an obvious selection when we got down to it.”
“It has been a spectacular rise for Karl, but his selection is well deserved and we look forward to watching him play his part on Saturday night. He and his family can be very proud about what he is about to achieve.”
Hansen said the team was looking forward to kicking off the international season.
“We’re really looking forward to the weekend and had a great week of training. Whilst rugby is a complicated game, we’ve worked hard at simplifying those complexities this week so that we can go out and play with real confidence, high energy and genuine intent on the weekend.
“The players have worked hard on getting clarity of role and are up for the challenge that this French side brings. Statistics show that they’re the best defensive team in world rugby at the moment, and history has shown us what can happen when they flick the switch on attack.
“It’s also a special night for the Barrett family with Beaudy, Scott and Jordie all starting the Test match, the first trio of All Black brothers to do so, so we congratulate them on their historic milestone.
Meanwhile halfback Morgan Parra is back in the French starting side after a 3 year absense.
Their side contains just 4 players from the starting team that played France’s last Six Nations match in March.