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Dalton Papalii to captain Blues in Super Rugby Pacific 2022

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

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All Blacks flanker Dalton Papalii has been announced as Blues captain for the upcoming Super Rugby Pacific campaign.

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Papalii fills the void left by lock Patrick Tuipulotu, who led the Blues to a drought-breaking Super Rugby Trans-Tasman title last year but has joined Toyota Verblitz on a season-long sabbatical deal this season.

With 45 appearances for the Auckland-based side since his Super Rugby debut in 2018, Papalii has developed into one of the most important figures in the Blues squad.

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That, according to Blues head coach Leon MacDonald, made it an easy decision to appoint the 24-year-old as skipper of the franchise he has been involved with since his days as a schoolboy.

“He is a born-and-raised Aucklander who has come through the Blues system. His work ethic is second-to-none to go with his immense skill, speed and tenacity,” MacDonald said via a statement released on Saturday.

“Dalton has already been in our leadership group and has been a big part in building the culture of our team and although he is a young man, he has already emerged as a key cog at our club, both on and off the field.

“We believe he is ready to take on the captaincy, bearing in mind that we have a number of highly experienced leaders like Beauden Barrett, Harry Plummer, Tom Robinson and a bunch of All Blacks who will wrap around him.”

Papalii, a 12-test international, said that he was humbled to lead the Blues as they target back-to-back titles for the first time since 1997.

“It is a real honour and privilege. To be honest, I was surprised when Leon approached me but very humbled to take over this season from Patty,” he said.

“We have a bunch of my teammates who have international experience and I am going to be calling on them within our leadership group.

“I’ve also reached out to Patty in Japan and he has given me loads of advice, and is a phone call away if I need a sounding board.

“The boys have already set the tone and welcomed the All Blacks back into the group. We are all buying in to what we stand for, and what we want to achieve.

“We have some challenges with this time away in Queenstown, but we need to put in the mahi every single day.

“Every time we put the jersey on, we will be 100 percent committed to our teammates, our staff, our families, our sponsors, our club and our fans.”

Papalii is currently on All Blacks leave and hasn’t been named to play for the Blues in their first pre-season match of the year against the Hurricanes in Wellington on Sunday.

However, he is expected to be available for selection from round one of Super Rugby Pacific, which kicks-off against Moana Pasifika at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on February 18.

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