Samoa challenge a timely spur for Wallabies scrum ahead of World Cup: Tupou

Rugby World Cup
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by Beth Newman in Japan

Wallabies prop Taniela Tupou says the Samoa Test proved a timely wake-up call for the front row ahead of what will be another stern scrum challenge against Fiji.

Australia’s scrums started scratchily in Johannesburg in July but built into an impressive performances against Argentina in Brisbane and in the opening Bledisloe against the All Blacks.

Samoa, though, gave them a reminder that any mistake could be punished in the scrum, courtesy of Aussie-raised tighthead Paul Alo-Emile.

Tupou was caught somewhat off-guard in his bench cameo against Samoa as the Wallabies were monstered by Alo-Emile in his first scrum on thefield.

The Australian tighthead said the Samoan game was a timely wake-up call for the Wallabies in their scrum, highlighting some areas to work on ahead of their Rugby World Cup opener in just a week’s time.

 

“What happened in the first scrum, Jordan and Slipper were on at the time and I came on and it was just hard because I came on and we make a mistake and it happens in the game,” he said.

“We fixed it in the last few scrums but again it's a work-on for us going forward against Fiji.

“Glad we had those scrums against Samoa so we can have a look at it and fix it for the World Cup.”

The 22-year-old may have still been shaking off the signs of sleepiness at his Sunday morning press conference but his excitement about finally being at rugby’s showpiece tournament was clear.

A chance to play at the World Cup was a childhood dream for Tupou, and in his dream it was the Wallabies he was playing for.

Taniela Tupou is excited for the scrum challenge that awaits the Wallabies against Fiji. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyTupou’s Tonga U14s side had a coach with lofty ambitions for his charges, predicting each one would go onto play for Tonga in this 2019 Rugby World Cup.

In reality, Tupou and one other will be playing in this World Cup but, in a not unfamiliar story, none will actually run out for Tonga.

Tupou has spoken often about his long-held desire to play for the Wallabies and his steady improvement in the past two seasons since he became Test eligible has  only enhanced  his standing in World Rugby.

“I remember playing for Tonga U14s a few years ago and our coach was saying the plan is for everyone to play in the World Cup in 2019 for Tonga and here I am obviously playing for Australia,” he said.

“It's something I’ve been dreaming of, playing at the World Cup and I didn't think I would be able to play for Australia but now I'm here and I'm so grateful for the opportunity to represent Australia, my family and myself.

“It hasn’t been easy, but I’m happy I’m here and I just want to work hard and hopefully get an opportunity to play.”

Tupou faced a big learning curve earlier this year, when he first moved out on his own and began to struggle with his form but he found his groove again towards the end of the Reds season and has been a solid performer for the Wallabies this year.

The rookie has said after those tough times earlier in the season, he rediscovered his enjoyment of the game and being in Japan is something he is relishing.

Taniela Tupou is in his first World Cup. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley"There's something about the Japanese, I just love them, they're so respectful, if I see them do something, I just join them and I just love it," he said.

"i love the food, love the people and love everything about Japan. the culture is awesome.

"It's been good, we've been having a good week here of training and the boys are working hard and the facilities and the hotel is awesome."

The Wallabies are in Odawara until Wednesday, when they travel to Sapporo ahead of Saturday's Fiji clash.

Australia takes on Fiji on Saturday September 21 at the Sapporo Dome, kicking off at 1:45pm local, 2:45pm AEST, LIVE on Foxtel, Network Ten and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO.