Rugby: Blues veteran Patrick Tuipulotu sets sights on All Blacks locking vacancy

The season of giving is in full swing for the Blues, who've driven a bus full of donated Christmas presents across Auckland to donate to the Salvation Army.

But while the Blues are embracing the yuletide spirit, with Super Rugby just over two months away, redemption is also firmly front of mind.

It wasn't quite their standard pre-season training for the Blues, who last week swapped boots for dancing shoes among a slew of school visits to spread some Christmas goodwill

"We don't want to see anyone or any children or any families go without, so there's been a big push to try and get 20,000 presents," Blues lock Patrick Tuipulotu told Newshub, who were along for the bus ride.

Angus Ta'avao.
Angus Ta'avao. Photo credit: Photosport

Tuipulotu's season was disrupted by injury this year. He broke his arm toward the end of the Super Rugby Pacific campaign and then reaggravated it playing for Auckland in the NPC. 

"I wanted to make a push for that World Cup squad and I certainly gave it a good go, can't fault my effort there but it was probably just a bit too early," he added.

But being back in black remains the top goal for Tuipulotu, and with the departures of Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick from the All Blacks, the 30-year-old wants to prove to coach Scott Robertson he can be the man to fill the void. 

"Obviously there's a vacant position there and I'll be certainly pushing for that," he admitted.

"But like I've always said before it doesn't just happen, it starts early on and this pre-season is a pre cursor for that".

Angus Ta'avao will be hoping to give just as much on the field as he clearly already is off it.

His off-season switch back to the Blues from the Chiefs is one he hopes will recharge his career. 

"Maybe that's the secret, switch around a bit you get a fresh taste, you don't get stale like those crackers up in your pantry," Ta'avao joked.

And while December is an opportunity to give back, make no mistake, on the field there is serious work being put in after the Blues yet again fell short this year.

The Auckland-based franchise finished third in the standings but were handed a 52-15 beating by the eventual champion Crusaders in the semi-final.

"There's certainly a lot of motivation with those losses," Tuipulotu confessed. "Put us up against the Crusaders, who've been the benchmark - that's a challenge in itself."