Potential debut still sinking in for Tupou

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Taniela Tupou has been waiting a lifetime to don the Wallabies jersey, and when the moment finally came on Thursday, the mammoth prop was overwhelmed.

Growing up in Tonga, Tupou always had his sights set on playing for Australia, even when awarded a scholarship for high school in Auckland.

Tupou was still in shock over his selection on Friday morning (AEDT), when he addressed the media two days out from the Wallabies-Scotland Test.

“I'm lost for words. I actually don't know what to say,” he said.

“I just found out today that I'm playing, in the team meeting.

“I was in tears actually.”

The only regret Tupou has is that his Australia and Tonga-based family won’t be able to be there to watch him make his international debut, but they will be at the forefront of his thoughts.

“The first thing that came to my mind was my family,” he said.

“Growing up in Tonga as a young kid, all I wanted to do was to play for Australia one day and now I can do that this weekend.

“I can't wait to give them a call and tell them I'm playing this weekend.”

Though it’s his ball-running that has attracted attention before he even entered the professional realms, but Tupou’s growth in the scrum has taken him to another level.

Michael Cheika has put his faith in Taniela Tupou. Photo: Getty ImagesIn Wallabies camp, he has had Sekope Kepu and Stephen Moore to pick the brains of, players he grew up idolising.

“I grew up in Tonga, always watching the Wallabies play the All Blacks and South Africa and stuff, watch guys like Squeak (Moore) and Sekope Kepu and Taf (Tatafu Polota-Nau) and some of the older guys.

“I was always wanting to play for Australia, even I went to New Zealand, I was lucky enough to get a scholarship to go study in New Zealand but it  didn't change for me, wanting to play for Australia and I'm grateful and I can't wait to get out there and play on Saturday.”

The 20-year-old cheekily suggested he could bob up for Tonga in the World Cup, if rugby’s eligibility laws follow that of the 13-man code, but there’s no doubt he is committed to the Wallabies cause.

Wallabies captain Michael Hooper was one of those who saw the rampaging Tupou in action on YouTube as an Auckland teenager, but said he had shaken off that legacy to prove himself as a Test prospect.

“I do actually (remember watching them) yeah,” he said.

“It can happen quick for some, it can take longer for others, and for him while he hasn’t been eligible for a certain period of time, to get through that and get eligible and be able to run on this weekend potentially is going to be great for him, his family and all his friends.

“He was a bit shocked when he got selected today.

“The rest of the boys weren’t because of the stuff he’s been doing at training, the hard work he’s been putting in and the impression he’s given us of what he can do has been really impressive.

“(I’m) stoked for him to come this far and develop into a potential Wallaby on the weekend.”

Australia takes on Scotland on Saturday November 25, kicking off at 2:30pm local, Sunday 1:30am AEDT, LIVE on beIN Sports and SBS Viceland.