The selection may come as something of a surprise, given Dalton Papali’i has held the honour over recent seasons and looked to be growing in the role as he pressed his claim for the All Blacks‘ No 7 jersey.
But Tuipulotu offers the team plenty of experience, sitting just shy of 100 games for the club in addition to his 43 All Blacks caps.
The 30-year-old had previously captained the team from 2019 to 2021 before heading to Japan to play for Toyota Verblitz in 2022. Returning to the Blues in 2023, Tuipulotu’s season was cut short by a broken arm. The injury came before the lock could fully regain his form and was re-aggravated during Auckland’s NPC campaign.
Now fully healthy and back at the helm of his local club, the lock is up for the challenge in 2024.
“The feeling you get leading this side into battle each week is something special,” said Tuipulotu.
“We’ve got a core of experienced Blues men who lead in their own way and it’s my job to empower that group of leaders to help propel the team forward.”
“Captaincy comes with a weight of expectation – we represent the people of our region and as a team we strive to do our fans proud whenever we pull on the Blues jersey.”
“We’ve set ourselves high standards for the 2024 campaign, we believe we have the squad to do something special and we’re working hard in the pre-season to make that a reality.”
Tuipulotu’s took the opportunity to emphasise the team’s commitment to the Auckland community.
“As part of our pre-season we had our Fill the Blues Bus campaign where we collected gifts for the Salvation Army. Doing community projects like that help keep the boys grounded and give them an appreciation of the people and community they’re playing for.”
New Blues Head Coach Vern Cotter, recognising his captain’s commitment to the team and who they represent, said Tuipulotu would be backed up by strong leadership group.
“Patty is a natural leader in this group, he’s an experienced head with nearly 100 caps for the team and has the respect of the players around him. I’m confident he’ll do an excellent job leading the Blues in 2024,” said Cotter.
“We’ve got a group of guys in our squad with a range of leadership experience, so they’ll provide a sounding board and help lighten the load for Patty throughout our campaign.”