Further evidence the ailing Blues may be slowly turning in the right direction has come with the announcement that new All Black Karl Tu'inukuafe has signed a three-year deal with the club.

The 25-year-old, who shot to national fame earlier this year when he made his All Blacks debut after starting the year without a Super Rugby contract, has chosen the Blues despite having several other clubs chasing him.

He's believed to have turned down offers to stay at the Chiefs or shift to the Highlanders or Crusaders after the Blues appointed Tom Coventry as forwards coach for next season.

Coventry coached Tu'inukuafe at North Harbour last year and the big prop believes his Mitre 10 Cup mentor will be able to help him continue his impressive development.

Advertisement

The presence of Tu'inukuafe in the Blues pack will immediately bolster their set piece as he's now rated, by the All Blacks, as one of the best scrummaging looseheads in the country.

It's also believed that there could yet be more arrivals pending at the Blues - signings that have been made possible thanks to the arrival of Coventry, who has is respected nationwide for his ability to get the best out of forwards.

It is believed that Akira Ioane committed to the Blues - he was talking to the Hurricanes - once he knew Coventry was on board.

And with Leon MacDonald also joining next year as attack coach and NiB having completed the biggest jersey sponsorship deal in Super Rugby history, there is an element of optimism building at the long-suffering club.

"I think we have a strong squad for next year," said Tu'inukuafe as to why he has chosen the Blues. "I have my Harbour coach Tom Coventry coming in to take the forwards and I get to stay in the region.

"The set-up at the Blues looks great and I am going to enjoy being part of this club and hopefully I can do my part in helping the club do well."

The added bonus with Tu'inukuafe is that he's already become something of a cult figure with the ability to put bums on seats at Eden Park. What makes him such an endearing figure is his back story.

Tu'inukuafe, from starting the season as a total unknown, became a household name when he made his test debut against France in June at Eden Park. His path to the national team was one of the more unusual traversed.

Advertisement

He played for North Harbour in the 2017 Mitre 10 Cup but didn't land a Super Rugby contract.

But when the Chiefs suffered an extraordinary injury crisis at prop, they called up Tu'inukuafe.

He made his debut against the Blues in March and continued to play so well that when All Blacks original choice Tim Perry pulled his hamstring, Tu'inukuafe was drafted into the national team, earning his first cap on the same ground he'd played his first game for the Chiefs three months earlier.

What made his story yet more remarkable was that at the end of 2014 he hadn't played rugby for two years and had ballooned out to 170kg and was told by his doctor if he didn't lose weight he was almost certainly going to have a heart attack.

"Big Karl really impressed us in his first campaign with the All Blacks in June," says All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.

"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, he's eager to learn and he made great strides in the black jersey. We look forward to working with Karl in the future."