Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Tuipulotu gives side blues

Patrick Tuipulotu. Photo / Getty
Patrick Tuipulotu. Photo / Getty

The Blues could have Jerome Kaino back from injury against the Chiefs in Hamilton on Friday but Patrick Tuipulotu's fractured hand suffered in the gritty victory over the Jaguares is a blow that will outweigh the possible return of their skipper.

Kaino will be checked today before a training plan is put in place following a shoulder injury suffered in the draw against the Reds a fortnight ago which the Blues medical staff conservatively thought would sideline him for a month.

In his absence, his senior teammates acquitted themselves well during the 24-16 victory over the Argentines at QBE North Harbour Stadium on Saturday, in particular hooker James Parsons, prop Charlie Faumuina, loose forward Steven Luatua, centre Rene Ranger and Tuipulotu, so the news that the big lock will be out for one to two weeks is a blow.

It could be that coach Tana Umaga puts Luatua back at lock alongside Josh Bekhuis for his team's next match at FMG Waikato Stadium, with either Kaino or Joe Edwards at blindside flanker and Akira Ioane at No8. Tanerau Latimer's continued recovery from a calf problem after his arrival from Japan - he is likely to play club rugby in a fortnight - should mean Blake Gibson keeps the No7 jersey.

Tuipulotu responded well to his dropping to the reserves against the Hurricanes in round three, and his bulk and athletic ability would have been big assets against a Chiefs team preparing to welcome back injured All Black lock Brodie Retallick.

The Chiefs are in hot form, as evidenced by their thrashing of the Brumbies in Canberra, and they will look forward to the visit of the Blues, who claimed a morale-boosting victory over the Jaguares.

Liam Messam, the Chiefs loose forward now on full-time national sevens duty, has already tweeted about the clash - his "favourite game" - against their northern rivals.

The Blues victory wasn't much of a spectacle, but following their inconsistent start to the season and the hot form of the other New Zealand teams, the four competition points were crucial in helping them stay in touch on the table.

Loosehead prop Nic Mayhew is another casualty of the match in Albany and his knee injury is likely to keep him out for two to three weeks.

With second-five Piers Francis and halfback Bryn Hall on light training duties this week due to elbow sprains, the Blues medics will be kept busy. But the important thing for the Blues is they managed to close out a match for the first time since their round one win over the Highlanders.

They had to soak up a lot of early Jaguares pressure and a lopsided penalty count from referee Mike Fraser which Umaga felt was justified. But they didn't leak points and, importantly, hit back once they finally got the ball.

"In past games, we probably would have given away a lot more points than we did," Umaga said. "Our defence is something we have been working hard on. We knew the Argentine side would come to play. They chance their arm and don't hold back and I thought we handled that well."

One player whom Umaga felt made a point was centre Ranger, and the coach revealed the former

All Black is likely to retain the No13 jersey.

"He wants to play 13, that's his preference. Obviously we have to do what's best for us as a group but we've also got to be mindful of the player, too, if he wants to play there. We've got a lot of wingers, so at this stage he's done very well at 13 and he's done enough to probably stay there."

- NZ Herald

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