Super Rugby Pacific: Veteran lock Patrick Tuipulotu says incumbent Dalton Papalii has no problem with Blues captaincy change

Returning Blues skipper Patrick Tuipulotu insists fellow All Black Dalton Papalii has no issues with him taking back the captaincy off him.

New coach Vern Cotter has announced the veteran lock will again lead the Blues, even though Papalii has held the role for back-to-back Super Rugby Pacific seasons.   

The loose forward took over the captaincy in 2022, when Tuipulotu, 30, left New Zealand to play for Toyota Verblitz in Japan and kept the job, despite Tuipulotu's return in 2023.  

The season ended with a 52-15 semi-final drubbing by eventual champions Crusaders.  

Tuipulotu is quick to quash any suggestion Papalii, 26, might feel aggrieved at the change of tack under a new coach.  

"He's on board," he said. "We're good mates - or I'd like to think we're good mates – and I trust that I have his backing.

Dalton Papalii makes a break during the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific season.
Dalton Papalii makes a break during the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific season. Photo credit: Getty Images

"We've had ongoing chats, nothing too serious. We're both casual, laid-back guys, so it was a pretty easy convo."  

Former Fiji coach Cotter says reinstating Tuipulotu was an "easy choice".  

"He's fairly clearly the leader of this group," he said. "He has been here before.

"I had a good conversation with him when he came back and felt it was the right move."  

Cotter agrees Papalii is fully on board with the decision.  

"Dalton was great, really good... really good conversation. We spoke briefly, but very clearly around it and he felt that he was only in a caretaker role while Patty was away, so that was big from him."  

The Blues will hope the leadership change will help them return atop the Super Rugby mountain.

Tuipulotu was captain when they won the 2021 Super Rugby Trans-Tasman crown during COVID-19, defeating the Highlanders 23-15 in the final.

"We've set ourselves high standards for the 2024 campaign," he said. "We believe we have the squad to do something special and we're working hard in the pre-season to make that a reality."  

His side's first chance to show off that work will come when they fly to Japan later this month for a pair of pre-season matches, before officially kicking off their 2024 Super Rugby campaign against Fijian Drua on February 24.