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Tuipulotu injury: Dalton Papali’i’s candid take on resuming Blues captaincy

By Finn Morton
Blues captain Dalton Papalii (C) during the Super Rugby Pacific Quarter Final match between Blues and Waratahs at Eden Park, on June 09, 2023, in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

All Blacks flanker Dalton Papali’i is ready to step up and embrace the opportunity to captain the Blues once again in the absence of injured skipper Patrick Tuipulotu.

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While the Blues initially confirmed in mid-January that Tuipulotu would lead the team in 2024, the second-rower was injured during a pre-season clash away to Japanese club Tokyo Sungoliath a few weeks ago.

Tuipulotu, 31, revealed at the Super Rugby Pacific season launch last week that he may return after “another six to eight weeks” on the sidelines.

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During that period, Papali’i will captain the Blues – returning to the role that the star loose forward held for the last two seasons under former coach Leon MacDonald.

But when Tuipulotu recovers and is available for selection, Papali’i will have no issues with relinquishing the captaincy duties to one of his “best mates.”

“I’m so happy for him, he’s one of my best friends off the field,” Papali’i told Newshub after the Blues’ pre-season win over the Chiefs last week.

“Knowing that he’s stepped into that role, it was his before mine, so I took it as a caretaker.

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“(It’s like) the All Blacks, you never own the jersey, you just carry your legacy. That was the armband for me.

“Stepping into this role, I’ll do the best I can as always. But when Patty comes back, I’m straight behind him, I’ll follow him.”

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Following a two-game stint in Japan and a win over the Chiefs in Auckland last week, the Blues are up there with the Highlanders as the form teams from pre-season.

But with  the disappointment of last year’s 52-15 semi-final defeat to eventual champions the Crusaders still fresh in the minds of players and supporters, the Blues’ quest to make amends is about to begin.

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It all counts from now with the men from Auckland set to kick-off their regular season against the Fijian Drua in Whangarei on Saturday afternoon.

“This is why I play Super Rugby – to win,” Papali’i added. “We’ve come short (for) a few years now but every year you aim to win this thing.

“From these three games, we can take it into next week with confidence.

“It’s going to be a massive test next weekend against the Drua. They can turn it on whenever they want. Last year, when we went over there, it was one of the hardest games I’ve ever played.

“For the Blues and Vern (Cotter) as well, going into next week, we can take a lot of confidence out of the three performances against quality sides.

“We can take some good things out of that.”

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