Super Rugby Pacific: Blues captain Patrick Tuipulotu faces lengthy absence after suffering broken jaw in Japan

Patrick Tuipulotu in action for the Blues last year.
Patrick Tuipulotu in action for the Blues last year. Photo credit: Getty Images

The Blues have been dealt an early-season blow with the loss of captain Patrick Tuipulotu to injury.

The 43-test All Blacks lock has fractured his jaw and will likely be out of rugby for 8-10 weeks, sidelining him for the first half of the Blues' Super Rugby Pacific campaign.

Tuipulotu suffered the injury late in the first half of the Blues' opening pre-season match against Suntory Sungoliath at Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium. He will return home to New Zealand immediately for surgery.

It's another cruel twist of fate for Tuipulotu, who broke his arm late last season to rule him out of contention for the All Blacks' World Cup squad. He then re-aggravated the injury playing for Auckland in the NPC. 

"This is a tough blow for Patrick, especially early on in the season," said Blues head coach Vern Cotter. "We accept injuries are part of our game and we're wishing Paddy a speedy recovery, knowing he'll still offer plenty to the group from a leadership perspective over the next few weeks. 

"This is a resilient group and we’ve got a strong stock of locks to call on while he recovers." 

Cotter says a decision on who will assume Blues captaincy will be made in the coming days.

They take on the Yokohama Canon Eagles at Nippatsu Mitsuzawa Stadium in their second pre-season match next Saturday, before kicking off their season against Fijian Drua at Whangarei on February 24.