Patrick Tuipulotu to lead Blues in pre-season clash with Tokyo Sungoliath

All Blacks lock Patrick Tuipulotu will captain the Blues in their first pre-season clash of 2024 when they take on Japanese juggernauts Tokyo Sungoliath in Tokyo on Saturday afternoon.

Tuipulotu, who two weeks ago was named the Blues’ captain for the upcoming Super Rugby Pacific season, leads a talented side mixed with experience and some newer players as well.

Youngster Josh Fusitu’a starts in the front row along with experienced campaigners Kurt Eklund and Angus Ta’avao, while Tuipulotu will pack down alongside Sam Darry to complete the tight five.

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The Blues have named a formidable backrow trio, too, which includes Adrian Choat, Anton Segner and Hoskins Sotutu.

Halves duo Sam Nock and Stephan Perofeta will look to unlock the attacking flair of outside backs Kade Banks, Caleb Tangitau and Cole Forbes. Leo Gordon and Corey Evans will start in the midfield.

Assistant coach Paul Tito said the Blues are looking forward to playing a match following a pre-season training block over the past couple of months.

“We’re under no illusions how tough it will be,” Tito said in a statement. “We’re going over to test ourselves against a quality outfit and for us, it’s a first chance to get some game situations and start to develop as a team.

“We’re in a privileged position to be heading to Japan – a lot of the boys haven’t been there before.

“As well as the rugby we’ll get in extra meetings and like with any tour, it’ll bring us closer together, it’s all about the little connections.”

The Blues take on a Sungoliath side which includes former Queensland Reds lock Harry Hockings, ex-Rebels backrower Tamati Ioane and Japan international Kotaro Matsushima.

Sungoliath is second in Conference A in Japan Rugby League One. As flyhalf Perofeta discussed, the Tokyo-based club will pose a tough task on Saturday afternoon.

“The Sungoliath will be battle-hardened having already started their season, so it’s a good chance to see where we’re at – it will be a good test of our fitness and physicality,” Perofeta said.

“As players, we’ve been allowed to drive the team forward, as leaders we’re three to take control of the team and bring the best out of those around us while also expressing ourselves.”

Blues team to take on Tokyo Sungoliath

  1. Joshua Fusitu’a
  2. Kurt Eklund
  3. Angus Ta’avao
  4. Patrick Tuipulotu
  5. Sam Darry
  6. Adrian Choat
  7. Anton Segner
  8. Hoskins Sotutu
  9. Sam Nock
  10. Stephen Perofeta
  11. Kade Banks
  12. Leo Gordon
  13. Corey Evans
  14. Caleb Tangitau
  15. Cole Forbes

Extended bench:

Ricky Riccitelli, Soane Vikena, Jordan Lay, Marcel Renata, PJ Sheck, Laghlan McWhannell, Josh Beehre, James Thompson, Taufa Funaki, Lucas Cashmore, Alex Harford

Full Blues pre-season

Blues vs Tokyo Sungoliath at Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium on February 3 at 4 pm

Blues vs Yokohama Eagles at Nippatsu Mitsuzawa Stadium on February 10 at 4:10 pm

Blues vs Chiefs at Takapuna Rugby Club on February 16 at 4 pm

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