With five minutes left to play in a historic pre-season rugby clash in Tokyo last weekend, Patrick Tuipulotu suffered a devasting injury which is set to keep the Blues captain on the sidelines for at least the next two months.
The Blues had raced out to a comprehensive lead in their highly anticipated clash with Japan’s Tokyo Sungoliath at Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium when All Blacks lock Tuipulotu sustained a fracture to his jaw.
Tuipulotu, who in mid-January was named the Blues’ captain for the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific season, will undergo surgery and is expected to be unavailable for eight to 10 weeks.
“Bit unfortunate,” Tuipulotu said after returning to Auckland. “Bit of friendly fire. Went up for the lineout and as I was coming down, (Adrian) Choaty’s head went straight into the side of the jaw.
“Pretty much felt it straight away, (my) head was ringing. There were only five minutes left to go so not ideal but that’s part of it.
“I’ve broken the other side before, I sort of knew what it felt like,” he continued. “It wasn’t as bad as my other broken jaw but I knew something had cracked.”
This is a tough blow for the Blues, who are yet to name Tuipulotu’s replacement as the team captain, only a few weeks out from their season opener against the Fijian Drua in Whangarei.
Tuipulotu expects to have surgery by Monday at the latest, but unfortunately, this process will keep the second-rower stuck on 99 Super Rugby appearances for just a little bit longer.
“I broke my arm on the way to 99 games, now this,” Tuipulotu added. “Hopefully this is the only hiccup I have.”
In a statement released by the Blues on Sunday evening, head coach Vern Cotter shared his sympathies for the injured lock.
“This is a tough blow for Patrick especially early on in the season” Cotter said.
“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.”