Blues coach Vern Cotter has named 43-test All Black Patrick Tuipulotu as captain ahead of the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific season, replacing fellow All Black Dalton Papalii.
Tuipulotu finished last year with 99 appearances for the Auckland franchise and will look to reach the century mark as skipper.
Cotter said the decision to reinstate Tuipulotu was a case of it being the best man for the job.
“Because he’s very clearly the leader of this group and has been before.
“I had a good conversation with him when he came back and felt it was the right move.”
The former Crusaders forwards coach said he had spoken with Papalii and that the openside flanker understood his role as captain was always going to be temporary.
“I was able to talk to Dalton and a couple of others around the team as well and Patty’s notion of leading is sharing and getting other people involved as well, for me it ticked all the boxes.
“We spoke briefly but very clearly around it and he felt that he was only in a caretaker role while Patty was away, so I thought that was big from him.
“He knows he can help and the experience he had last year as captain will give him more awareness around it and he’ll be better for Patty and the team.”
Dalton Papalii is on board with the call. Photo / photosport.nz
The sentiment was echoed by Tuipulotu, who said it will be business as usual for the Blues.
“‘I had a brief discussion with Dalts and he’s on board. We’re good mates, or I like to think we’re good mates. I trust him, I have his back.
“The calibre of leaders, having Dalts there as well, I don’t need to do much. Nothing changes apart from a few subtleties off the field.”
Cotter said there was no chance of any awkward tension around the Blues base as everyone is on the same page as to what is best for the team.
“These boys get on, they want what’s best for the team and for the Blues. They’re right behind all that stuff.”
The Blues have been Super Rugby’s perennial underachievers, despite often being one of the most talented sides in the competition. Their 2023 season ended in the semifinals at the hands of their longtime rival and eventual champion Crusaders.
Cotter highlighted the importance of having strong leadership within the group if they are to take themselves further and fulfil their potential.
“It’s critical, it’s critical to moving forward to that next step and going a little bit further than they have been. Gaining in maturity and sharing the responsibilities around the team and the performance of the team.”
The Blues’ first pre-season fixture sees them head to Japan to face Sam Cane and Tokyo Sungoliath on February 3, with a second match in Tokyo against Yokohama Canon Eagles a week later on February 10.
The Super Rugby Pacific season proper then begins for the Blues on February 24 against the Fijian Drua at home.
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