Blues' good news on Barrett tempered by broken arm for Tuipulotu

Patrick Tuipulotu offloads the ball against the Highlanders at Eden Park.

Beauden Barrett will return to start for the Blues in their quarter-final against the Waratahs at Eden Park on Friday but lock Patrick Tuipulotu is out for six weeks due to a broken arm.

Tuipulotu, back at the Blues after a season in Japan last year, suffered the injury during the Blues’ 16-9 victory over the Highlanders last Friday and while he didn’t report any pain, he was put in a cast after the final whistle.

Coach Leon MacDonald gave the update tonight on a unique Zoom call with media from both sides of the Tasman along with Waratahs coach Darren Walton.

“It’s brutally demoralising, especially after missing last year,” MacDonald said of Tuipulotu’s setback.

“He was really excited to get back into a Blues jersey this year and I thought he was really starting to hit his straps in both his leadership role and as a key player in our team. He’s a huge loss to us.

“I was speaking to him after the game in the shed for 10 minutes and he didn’t say a thing and 20 minutes later he was walking around with a cast on his arm. He’s not a man of a lot of words… he didn’t even say he had a sore arm.

“He obviously finished the game with it broken and didn’t squeak at all about it afterwards. He’s a tough old rooster and the boys are disappointed for him.”

While Tuipulotu, who scored the only try of the match, will likely be back for the latter part of the Rugby Championship if required – the 36-man squad will be announced on June 18 – his leadership in particular will be missed by the Blues, who have already lost Sam Darry to a long-term injury.

Tuipulotu had led the team during the two-week absence of the suspended Dalton Papali’i but MacDonald was confident that just as Anton Segner and Adrian Choat had covered well for loose forward Papali’i, so players such as Tom Robinson and Cameron Suafoa would make up for Tuipulotu’s absence.

Meanwhile, Blues first-five Barrett hasn’t played since leading his team to victory over the Reds in Brisbane a fortnight ago and will be a welcome addition to a side who have stuttered their way to home wins over the Hurricanes and Highlanders.

“Beauden has got through training today,” MacDonald said. “He looked sharp, actually - he looked really good, so that’s obviously exciting.”

Waratahs coach Walton, responding to the news of Barrett’s return from a cut heel, said: “They’ve got strike weapons across the field and Beauden adds another dimension there; a big-running 10 that’s got a short kicking game. He pulls the strings quite well.

Blues No.10 Beauden Barrett in action against the Reds at Suncorp Stadium before his injury.

“We’re under no illusions how big the challenge is, we've just got to get our part right and obviously limit their chances.

“We took a few lessons on how the Highlanders contained them on different occasions on Friday night and we’ll be doing our best to do the same.”

The Blues, finalists last year, have had a curious last couple of weeks on the pitch. While they were dominant against both the Hurricanes (a 36-25 win) and Highlanders, that superiority hasn’t been reflected on the scoreboard leading to questions about whether they are truly contenders. They finished third on the table behind the Chiefs and Crusaders.

“I think we’re getting down the field really well … and getting three or four metres away from the line often, and we know what we need to do, we just haven’t done it well," MacDonald said.

“We’ve either not been patient enough or a little big sloppy with our cleanout or handling. We’ve spoken about it at length and for us it’s something we’re working on this week: finishing the job and the mindset about being ruthless as well.”

As for the media opportunity involving a rival coach a few days out before a quarter-final, MacDonald was relaxed about the situation, as was Walton.

“We’re not boxers, we’re not going to give each other the big stare-down,” MacDonald said. “We’re both in the same situation, it’s finals time, it’s time to get excited as a team. It’s do or die.”


More Stories