Super Rugby Pacific: Dalton Papalii to take back Blues captaincy while Patrick Tuipulotu recovers from broken jaw

Blues coach Vern Cotter has announced Dalton Papalii will be reinstated as captain while Patrick Tuipulotu is sidelined with a fractured jaw.    

Tuipulotu suffered an injury late in the first half of the Blues' opening pre-season win against Tokyo Sungoliath at Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium. He's expected to be out for between 8 and 10 weeks. 

It's a familiar role for Papalii, who took over the captaincy in 2022 when Tuipulotu left New Zealand to play for Toyota Verblitz in Japan.     

Cotter said it was an easy decision to hand the leadership role back to the former captain.  

"It was a good conversation with the leadership group and the boys.    

"Dalts [Dalton] is taking over the captaincy and leadership of the team until Paddy comes back."  

But with Papalii unable to play in the Blues' next pre-season match against the Yokohama Canon Eagles due to All Blacks rest protocols, 23-year-old lock Sam Darry is being charged with leading the side.     

Despite captaining after Tuipulotu left their last match, Darry admits he was shocked to be asked again.     

"It was a bit of a surprise to be fair but nah pretty awesome, a real privilege and honour," he said.   

"Obviously I'm still pretty young and it made me feel a little bit out of place, but I've got some awesome support around from some boys with a bit more experience and they have all got behind me."    

Cotter expects Darry, who has played just 22 games for the Blues, to thrive in the role.    

"We've said right from the start we need leaders all the way through this team so Sam, this week, is a logical choice because he's well-organised," said the first year Blues coach.     

"He's professional and he speaks well in front of the group, and I think it fits naturally with him." 

 Sam Darry makes a tackle in a game vs the Highlanders.
Sam Darry makes a tackle in a game vs the Highlanders. Photo credit: Getty Images

Another surprising change for the Blue's upcoming match is the return of All Black Caleb Clarke to the left wing.     

Clarke hasn't played since making just one appearance against Namibia during the All Blacks' 2023 Rugby World Cup campaign, allowing him to skip the usual All Blacks rest protocols.      

"Caleb Clarke is available so he'll get some game time," said Cotter.    

"It's good to have him on the wing he's been training well with us. It's about balancing the workload... before we hit the Chiefs."     

The Blues will return from Japan to take on the Chiefs in Auckland for their final pre-season match in just eight days.     

Blues starting XV vs Yokohama Canon Eagles: Jordan Lay, Ricky Riccitelli, Marcel Renata, Sam Darry (c), Josh Beehre, Cameron Suafoa, Anton Segner, Hoskins Sotutu, Taufa Funaki Stephen Perofeta, Caleb Clarke, Corey Evans Meihana Grindlay, Caleb Tangitau, Zarn Sullivan.