Taniela Tupou is already one of the game's best props. Brad Thorn says he's only going to get better

Super Rugby - AU
by Christy Doran

Brad Thorn says Wallaby Taniela Tupou has a "presence" about him like few he's seen play the game and believes that the prop's stature will continue to rise in the years to come.

Tupou's name appeared in the headlines earlier in the week when The Australian published a story that Rugby Australia DOR Scott Johnson had arranged for some of the nation's leading scrum experts to cast their eyes over the Wallaby's scummaging.

Johnson did so in an effort to address some of the mixed interpretations over Tupou's scrummaging, which has at times come under fire for "angling in" rather than packing and driving straight.

"My personal concern was how much of the conversations we were having (about Tupou) was a legacy of past behaviour, not current behaviour," Johnson told The Australian.

"I was concerned that his reputation wasn't acting that way. It was actually working against him a little bit."

To catch all the Super Rugby AU action LIVE, purchase a Kayo subscription here.

But Thorn, who played alongside the likes of Richie McCaw, Tana Umaga and Brian O'Driscoll, says the 24-year-old Tupou, dubbed the 'Tongan Thor', is developing a presence about him that puts him in rare company.

"Taniela, he's 24 now, he's been to a World Cup, 50 plus (Super) caps, there's some maturity coming in," Thorn said in response to the headlines around his star prop ahead of the Reds' vital match against the Force on Friday night on the Gold Coast.

"He's wanted to lead and there's just a calmness and a presence about him which I've seen in my career just around guys." 

READ MORE:

MIND GAMES: 'Won two games so they're world-beaters again'

KAFER COLUMN: Is it time to change the 'Giteau Law'?

SURPRISING: Why Brad Thorn valued winning Super Rugby over the World Cup in 2011

Rather than going on the offensive Thorn pointed to his own love affair for scrummaging and said that that love was shared by the Reds.

"For me, I enjoyed my scrummaging, I loved it, so there's a focus there and (former Wallabies prop) Cameron Lillicrap's here and you've seen what he's done here," Thorn said.

"The club players; Dane Zander was playing reserve grade for Norths last year and went against the Wallabies tight-head (Allan Alaalatoa), went 80 minutes with him down at the Brumbies (earlier this month) and there's a whole heap of those guys.

"The pack weight is easily plus-900 kilo pack weight.

"The two locks are 122 kilo each, then you've got a tight-head prop (tupou) who is a 136-37 kilo, benches 200, squats some ridiculous number, so you can talk about him but it's a pretty easy equation. One plus one equals two, he is a big powerful tight-head and he's learned to love scrumming and he's in a pack that likes scrumming.

"That's what it is. I think you'd be surprised if he wasn't (dominating).

"I just think as the years go by he's just going to grow in stature more and more and it's cool that he's here in Australia.

"Because, i'll tell you what, guys like Taniela they're loved in France, they're loved in Europe. If there's one pack dominating another, that's all that matters."

LISTEN: The day Ewen McKenzie drove a Waratahs bus throughout Canberra to help his side snap their hoodoo. NSW assistant coach Chris Whitaker joins The Rugby Nation Show

Tupou came off the bench for the Wallabies during last year's World Cup and has been regularly picked behind Alaalatoa since making his Test debut in late 2017.

But there are high hopes that Tupou could become the world's best tight-head prop.

Tupou will pack down against the experienced trio Pek Cowan, Andrew Ready and Kieran Longbottom when the Reds take on the Force on Friday night.

FORCE: (1-15): Pek Cowan, Andrew Ready, Kieran Longbottom, Jeremy Thrush, Ollie Atkins, Fergus Lee-Warner, Kane Koteka, Brynard Stander, Ian Prior (c), Jono Lance, Brad Lacey, Richard Kahui, Kyle Godwin, Byron Ralston, Jack Stachan

Reserves: Heath Tessmann, Chris Heiberg, Tom Sheminant, Johan Bardoul, Ollie Callan, Nick Frisby, Jack McGregor, Henry Taefu

REDS (1-15): Jack Straker, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Taniela Tupou, Angus Blyth, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Liam Wright (c), Fraser McReight,  Harry Wilson,  Tate McDermott, James O'Connor, Filipo Daugunu,Hamish Stewart, Josh Flook, Jordan Petaia, Jock Campbell, 

Reserves: Josh Nasser, Harry Hoopert, Zane Nonggorr, Tuaina Taii Tualima, Angus Scott-Young, Moses Sorovi, Bryce Hegarty, Jack Hardy

The Force take on the Reds at Cbus Super Stadium on Friday August 21, kicking off at 7:05pm AEST, LIVE on Foxtel, Foxtel Now and Kayo Sports. Buy tickets here. Buy a Kayo subscription here.