All Blacks v Ireland: Former Blues captain Patrick Tuipulotu recalled, as locking crisis hits NZ camp

Former Blues captain Patrick Tuipulotu has been rushed into the All Blacks camp, with locks Sam Whitelock and Tupou Vaa'i both ruled out of the second test against Ireland on Saturday.

Whitelock, 33, is suffering delayed concussion symptoms from his starring role in the series-opener at Auckland, while Vaa'i, 22, is the squad's latest COVID-19 victim, after David Havili, Jack Goodhue and Will Jordan - along with most of the coaching staff - were sidelined last week. 

Since his 2014 debut, Tuipulotu, 29, has played 41 times for the All Blacks, but stepped away from Super Rugby Pacific this season to take up a contract with Toyota Verblitz in the Japan League Open competition.

Normally, he would have to turn out in the national provincial competition to reclaim All Blacks eligibility, but under the circumstances, coach Ian Foster has been granted exemption from the NZ Rugby board to recall the test veteran.

Whitelock led the All Blacks' massive defensive effort at Eden Park, completing 20 tackles with no misses. 

While his unavailability will force a change to the starting forward pack at Dunedin, Foster may be tempted to shift Scott Barrett from blindside flanker into the second row, selecting a specialist loose forward and bringing Tuipulotu off the bench.

"Not ideal,” said All Blacks captain Sam Cane of the disruptions. "Sammy was awesome at the weekend and became the second-most capped All Black of all time, which is hugely impressive.

"We'll no doubt miss his leadership and what he brings, and then Tupou had been playing well all Super Rugby and was hanging out for his opportunity.

"But in terms of replacements, we've got a 40-odd test All Black in Patrick Tuipulotu to bring in. He trained with us last week too which was awesome.

"He's up to speed and has slipped in pretty seamlessly."

Join us at 7pm Saturday for live updates of the second All Blacks v Ireland test