Tupou itching to take on the world

by Sam Phillips

Taniela Tupou will be eligible to play for the Wallabies when they face Scotland on November 26 and as his star continues to grow, so does his urge to don Wallaby gold.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika forecast Tupou being added to the Spring Tour squad after Queensland Country's NRC campaign wraps up in Saturday's final and that's a prospect that excites the 21-year-old.

Speaking to RUGBY.com.au in Toowoomba after he devastated the Fijian Drua in a performance that had to be seen to be believed, Tupou was smiling ear-to-ear when asked about the prospect of touring with the Wallabies, having had been taken on tour as a development player this time last year.

"I've always wanted to wear the gold jersey so whatever it takes for me to do it, I'll do it," he said.Tupou has been in fantastic form for Country. Photo: QRU Media/Brendan Hertel"I wouldn't move here for no reason.

"I'm excited for it, even if I don't get to play this year, next year - I'm only 21 - I know I have plenty of work to do and plenty of rugby ahead of me."

Tupou has always had the eye catching turn of foot and explosive power in his runs but he has been put through an apprenticeship at Ballymore, only making the starting tighthead spot his own in the back half of this Super Rugby season.

But the Reds firmly believe Tupou is the man that will pull on the number three come round one in 2018 and performances like today make it easy to see why.

His scrummaging is now at a point where it is arguably a net positive and that has allowed Tupou to unleash his incredible running game.

He credits that new sense of freedom to Country coach Brad Thorn and the knowledge that it all starts with the set piece.Tupou is expected to join the Wallabies in Europe after the NRC final. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley"Working and playing under Thorny - he gets the best out of me," Tupou said.

"Obviously it's what I'm good at - running - and he wants me to run hard.

"At school level I used to just run the ball.

"I couldn't scrum, I couldn't do anything but at this level if you can't scrum, you won't get picked.

"As a front rower that's what you need to do - running is a bonus but the scrum is beginning of it all.Tupou has been part of a Country scrum that is thriving. Photo: Getty Images"Otherwise, you won't get there."

If he continues to play like he did today Tupou will be a walkup starter when the Reds face the Rebels at AAMI Park in their season opener but the man they call Tongan Thor has his goals set a little higher.

"Now that I have learned how to scrum and I've learned how to work around the park I'm enjoying my footy," he said.

"I have to show Thorny that I can do it at the NRC level and if I can show him that I can do it at NRC level hopefully he will give me the first crack at the Reds next year

"I want to be the best in the world but I know I have a long way to go and I know I have to work hard for it."