Super Rugby Pacific: Blues captain Patrick Tuipulotu on fast track to recovery after avoiding surgery for broken jaw

Blues captain Patrick Tuipulotu is breathing a hearty sigh of relief, after avoiding surgery for his broken jaw.

The All Blacks lock suffered the injury earlier this month, during the team's pre-season win in Japan against Suntory Sungoliath.

The initial prognosis put his recovery timeframe at 8-10 weeks, sidelining him for approximately the first half of the Blues' Super Rugby Pacific campaign.

Patrick Tuipulotu in action last season.
Patrick Tuipulotu in action last season. Photo credit: Getty Images

After returning to New Zealand immediately to go under the knife for repairs, Tuipulotu was met with some very welcome news from medical staff, who informed him he wouldn't need surgery after all. 

That's seen his return-to-play date reduced to 5-6 weeks from the time of the injury, putting him on track for availability about round four of the competition, when the Blues take on NSW Waratahs at Sydney.

Considering the 43-test international's brutal stretch of injuries over the past 12 months, the update was warmly welcomed.

"Very pleasing," Tuipulotu told Newshub. "Really happy with it.

"It's not ideal, but it's all part of it... nothing new."

Just one week out from last year's quarter-finals, Tuipulotu broke his arm during the final regular season match against the Highlanders, cruelly ending both his Super Rugby season and his All Blacks World Cup ambitions.

He then reaggravated the injury playing for Auckland during the NPC, further extending his comeback trail. Nevertheless, injury is still injury.

"It was very frustrating, especially just a couple of weeks out from round one," Tuipulotu added. "Also, being in Japan is a great trip for our team and having to come home early from that, you miss out on the team dynamics while on tour.

"You can only control what you can now and part of that is just doing what I can in rehab...  helping [Papali'i] and the leaders play well, and do my job in terms of game strategy and everything that comes with it."

Dalton Papali'i will continue to fill in as captain during Tuipulotu's absence.

The past two seasons have been cases of so close, yet so far for the Blues. They were handily beaten by the Crusaders at their Eden Park headquarters in the 2022 final, then crushed 52-15 by their old rivals last year in a demolition at Christchurch.

Tuipulotu admits there's a sense of unfinished business about their 2024 campaign.

"We're not short of motivation," he said. "There's plenty driving us - I think more so the professionalism and the personal want to do well this year is pretty important." 

On Friday, the Blues play the Chiefs at North Shore's Onewa Domain in their final pre-season fixture, before their opener against Fijian Drua at Whangarei on February 24.