It turns out that the missing piece of Patrick Tuipulotu's high-performance puzzle was on his plate on game day.

Well, at least it is now. Simply put, the 120kg, 1.98m All Blacks lock was eating a little too much during the week and not enough on the day of the match, a fueling mix-up which left him running out of energy during games and invariably frustrated as a result.

Tuipulotu has always been a talented athlete. He has enormous size and strength and excellent pace for such a big man but the 26-year-old hasn't always been able to deliver on his potential.

Some of that has been due to injury and he's had more than his fair share, but a large part of the conundrum for the man as big and as hard to shift as a kitchen appliance has been what has been coming out of his refrigerator.


No longer. It was All Blacks coach Steve Hansen who suggested the Blues second-rower speak to team nutritionist Kat Darry about adjusting his diet and it paid instant dividends with Tuipulotu sealing his place in the World Cup squad when putting in a stunning performance against the Wallabies at Eden Park recently.

It was a busy and physically dominant effort that he and all those close to him would have known he was capable of and it was displayed at just the right time. "I think it all came to fruition in that game," Tuipulotu told the Herald. "Obviously I'll take a lot of confidence from that. The hard part now is that I have to take those lessons and carry on and keep the trend going.

"It's a pity that it's taken this long to find that little thing. In hindsight, it's worked and now I have to keep it going."

The bottom line is that after missing out on the 2015 World Cup due to double hip surgery, Tuipulotu is one of the four All Black locks on their way to Japan; a triumph for perseverance with a great dollop of help from sport science.

Patrick Tuipulotu. Photo / Photosport
Patrick Tuipulotu. Photo / Photosport

"I wasn't playing rugby at an optimum rate," Tuipulotu said. "I was training hard to lose weight - I wasn't really training for performance. I've got to a good spot now where I'm at a good weight and fitness level. I feel like I can perform and part of that was nutrition.

"I had a good conversation with our nutritionist and I had to make sure I ate more than usual on game day and I think the plan worked.

"I know I'm fit enough because I'm doing all the running and fitness tests outside games. But in the games I was getting gassed out too easily. Steve picked that up and put a plan in place.

"I don't want to put on too much weight during the week; it's eating for performance. On game day it's pretty much eat more porridge in the morning, have my eggs on toast and pre-match have more carbs and more protein to fuel the tank."


Tuipulotu, who switched his phone to silent and got a haircut at the time of this week's squad announcement, is clearly grateful for his opportunity. He is also grateful for the work done by others, including trainer Nic Gill, to get him to this point.

He was reluctant to break down his exact dietary requirements to the Herald, but as he has quickly discovered, details are everything at this level.

It was important for Tuipulotu to stay warm on a stationary bike at halftime of the All Blacks' 36-0 thrashing of the Wallabies after leaving the field early to allow Codie Taylor to replace the sinbinned Dane Coles and that too appeared to pay dividends as the No 4 returned to the field soon after the re-start and picked up where he left off.

His hit on Kurtley Beale alongside All Black prop Ofa Tuungafasi was so powerful – in fact symbolic of the home side's vastly improved attitude compared with the week before in Perth – that it got Hansen out of his seat in the coaches' box.

"I was probably getting a bit frustrated – I felt like I wasn't carrying the ball much, so I felt like I needed to hit something," Tuipulotu said. "It's all part of the game. I've always imagined myself trying to line up a fullback bringing the ball back on the counter. For it to happen in a game was pretty cool.

"Obviously I missed out on 2015 through injury and I was bit down for a while after that. From then till now has been a rocky road so to be here now is pretty humbling. The thing I'm looking forward to the most is just getting over there and experiencing the World Cup for what it is."