By Jonty Dine, Sports Reporter of rnz.co.nz and is republished with permission
Patrick Tuipulotu wants his All Blacks jersey back.
The door to a recall for the 43-test lock is wide open following the departures of stalwarts Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retalick.
Tuipulotu said he was determined to highlight his worth to new coach Scott Robertson after an injury plagued 2023.
“You look at the calibre of guys who have left, there are two pretty senior locks who have left vacant spots so I definitely want to put my hand up for one of those.
“During that Super Rugby season I was just starting to hit some form, and then to have that broken arm at a crucial time pretty much hindered my year so ready to hit this pre-season running.”
Tuipulotu will lead the Blues in 2024 with coach Vern Cotter naming the former All Black as his captain, replacing Dalton Papali’i.
He said captaincy was not a role he took lightly.
“I guess it’s not new for me, but pretty proud. I’m a Blues man through and through so to be given the captain’s armband, it’s a privilege, an honour and I look forward to leading the team out.
With his partner Phoenix Karaka recently named captain of the Silver Ferns, Tuipolotu is able to talk leadership strategies at home.
Tuipulotu partner Phoenix Karaka. Photo: PHOTOSPORT
“A lot of it is around off field behaviour and how to people manage really. I think we have both found getting everyone to work towards a common goal is quite hard, you have different personalities, ages and backgrounds so that’s one of the challenges we speak about the most, we definitely lean on each other, probably me more onto her.”
Tuipulotu regains the leadership from All Blacks flanker Dalton Papali’i, who has led the side for the last two campaigns.
He said there was no ill-will between he and Papali’i, who remained a leader in the squad.
“We are good mates, I trust him and have his backing. The calibre of leaders in terms of having Dalts there as well, nothing changes except for a few subtleties off the field.”
Cotter, known for his no nonsense approach to rugby, said Tuipulotu’s leadership style was appealing.
“He’s fairly clearly the leader of this group, and just felt it was the right move. Patty’s notion of leading is sharing, so for me it ticked all the boxes, it was a pretty easy choice really.”
Cotter said Papali’i was accepting of the change.
“He felt he was only in a caretaker role, he knows he can help and his experience will make him better for the team.”
Cotter said Tuipulotu was a leader both on and off the field.
“He understands the game, what the community is and what the Blues are about.”