Now and then: Sam Tuitupou

Now and then: Sam Tuitupou

It’s been eight years since Sam Tuitupou pulled on the Blues jersey. Almost nine since he played for the All Blacks. And yet his teammates and former coaches have not forgotten the impact this small and powerful number 12 had on the field.
Former Blues and All Blacks coach Graham Henry said that Sam’s game was “epitomised by his block-busting ball carrying and his devastating tackling.”
He was called the Blues’ pocket rocket, an inside centre that was known for breaking the first line of defence and for always “mixing things up with the bigger kids” according to his compatriot Steve Devine.
“I was always thankful that Sam was on my team and not the other team,” said Steve.
And English rugby pundits have continued this line of praise, with Sale Sharks Director of Rugby Steve Diamond calling him “the best close-tackling No 12 in the country.”
Like many young Kiwis, Sam found in rugby a brotherhood and a career. He started playing League at four and would have continued had his four older brothers not taken up Rugby.
“I literally just followed my brothers into it,” said Sam from his home in Manchester, England.
Sam stuck with the sport throughout high school, where he helped Kelston Boys’ High School’s First XV reach two 1A finals in 1998 and 1999. It was in these final two years of high school that Sam started making representative teams, beginning with NZ Secondary Schools.
He made the NZ Under 19 and NZ Under 21 teams in following years, captaining both and leading the latter to an IRB Junior World Championship title in 2003.
That same year, Sam was preparing to enter the next stage of his career: professional rugby.
He was raised in the NZ Rugby Academy and credits former Academy coach and current Blues High Performance Manager Tony Hanks with the smooth transition, still calling him a good friend.
And of course there were the superstars who helped influence Sam’s game.
“My older brothers and also the likes of Michael Jones and Eroni Clarke,” said Sam. “They had the biggest influence on my rugby.”
Sam helped the Blues bring the Super 12 trophy back to Auckland in 2003, playing all but one of the 13 games it took to win the title. He proceeded to earn a total 38 caps for the team between 2003 and 2007, before making the move over to Munster and now Sale where he’s been since 2011.
“It was a family decision at the time, the plan was to only have one season and then return to New Zealand,” said Sam. But plans were altered when he met Elizabeth, Sam’s English wife, and decided to stay in her home country.
“I looked for an English club after asking Elizabeth to marry me, which is when I met Steve Diamond who convinced me to move to Sale Sharks,” said Sam. “The family soon settled and we’ve been happy here ever since.”
They have seven children, four of whom are living back in West Auckland with Sam’s sister. “The boys play League for Te Atatu Roosters and Waitemata Rugby, hopefully they’ll be joining us in the UK soon,” said Sam. “If the Blues don’t sign them up first!”
Or before Sam signs them up himself. Since moving to England, Sam has earned his level 3 coaching certificate and has hopes of coaching rugby after his own career finishes.
There’s also the hope of coming home.
“I’m still trying to convince my wife to move back to NZ,” said Sam. “I think the promise of a sunny Christmas might seal the deal as she’s never experienced one before.”

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