Tupou's chance to show who is the man: Five matchups to define the Super Rugby AU final

Super Rugby - AU
by Christy Doran

It's not just a Super Rugby AU title at stake, there's Wallabies spots up for grabs.

Of the 44-men included in Dave Rennie's Wallabies squad, 13 have been selected from the Brumbies and a further nine from the Queensland Reds.

Here are the five biggest match-ups that will define Saturday evening's final at GIO Stadium in Canberra.

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Allan Alaalatoa v Taniela Tupou

It's the Wallabies incumbent starting tight-head against his replacement Tupou.

Alaalatoa - the Brumbies' first-year captain - is Mr. Consistent.

He hardly ever does something wrong, his work-rate is strong and he's a level head.

But he's up against arguably the most exciting front-rower in the world.

Opposition coaches aren't questioning his technique at the scrum for no reason. It's because they know he represents the biggest threat. A side with a dodgy scrum has little chance.

Tupou has forced a competition high 26 penalties at the scrum.

But it's not just at the scrum he's running amok, with the 24-year-old running unbelievable lines 75 minutes deep into matches to set up tries.

This battle could well determine who wears the No.3 jersey next month for the Wallabies.


Noah Lolesio v James O'Connor

Welcome back Mr Lolesio.

The 20-year-old might not have played for two months, but that hasn't stopped his coach Dan McKellar from picking him.

Why?

The Brumbies average 33 points when the fly-half is playing compared to 22 points when he's not.

"His (Lolesio's) ability to play nice and flat, take on any defensive line, any tired or fatigued defenders in front of him he's always going to be looking for that opportunity, he's got very good vision and sees space at times well ahead of others - that's why we've given him the nod," explained coach Dan McKellar on Thursday.

He will go head to head against one of Australia's most experienced players, James O'Connor.

The thought is that Lolesio and Waratahs young gun Will Harrison will bide their time and gain some valuable experience over the coming months with the Wallabies.

Well, a strong outing in the final against O'Connor's Reds could change that theory.

O'Connor, too, has a golden opportunity to prove to some doubters that he's a 10.

He and Matt To'omua are the front-runners for the No.10 jersey.

Many still judge him on his three Tests in the position for the Wallabies in 2013. Wake up folks, it's now 2020.

Folau Fainga'a v Brandon Paenga-Amosa

These two might not generate the same headlines as some, but for the Reds to have a chance Paenga-Amosa's lineout must fire.

We all know Fainga'a will get on the end of a maul or two, he's scored nine tries in 2020 which follows his 12 last year after all.

When Fainga'a is firing, so too are the Brumbies.

Paenga-Amosa represents the heart and soul of the Reds.

He leads the team song, he represents that feel good story of a garbage man making it all the way to the top.

It's a modern day feel good story.

Both men are in Rennie's Wallabies squad and for Australia to have any hope of winning back the Bledisloe the lineout must fire.

Tevita Kuridrani v Hunter Paisami

This mini-battle is worth the admission alone.

How players respond to adversity define careers.

In this case Kuridrani, this is a bloke who is an experienced Wallaby, has been to two World Cups and started in a World Cup final and, yet, he was left out of Rennie's first Wallabies squad.

In stark contrast, the man he will go head to head with, Hunter Paisami, hadn't made his Super Rugby debut at the start of the year and has made Rennie's squad.

Funnily enough, the man who wore the No.13 jersey for the Wallabies in last year's quarter-final loss to England, Jordan Petaia, has been pushed to the wing to accommodate Paisami after Chris Feauai-Sautia's injury.

Paisami provides punch and explosive hole running in the midfield.

He is susceptible of missing that first-up tackle and undoubtedly the Brumbies will attempt to exploit him in defence.

READ MORE

'NO, STUFF IT': Reds great Genia opens up on that try, and why he's drawn to McDermott

ATTACK: The selection that proves the Brumbies' days of being a one-trick pony are over

FROM COOPER TO O'CONNOR: How Thorn turned the Reds into one of the hottest teams in Super Rugby


Pete Samu v Harry Wilson

It's hardly remembered by non-Brumbies fans, but Pete Samu is a two-time Super Rugby winner.

The back-rower played a massive role in the Crusaders' dominance under Scott Robertson and was convinced to come home for the chance to wear the Wallabies jersey.

And yet, Samu wasn't called upon in 2019 and didn't feature in Michael Cheika's World Cup squad.

Here is Samu's chance to make a statement.

He's up against Harry Wilson, a young bloke who graduated out of the Junior Wallabies program last year to make his debut in 2020 and it wasn't long before Robertson said "he'd fallen for" the No.8.

But is Wilson ready to start at No.8 for the Wallabies against the All Blacks?

He is undoubtedly a star of the future, but as we've seen in the past young players can't always go the journey in their maiden year particularly when they're fowards.

Sure if you a live-wire back with pace to burn, as we've seen with Petaia and five years ago with Nehe Milner-Skudder, you can, but forwards are different.

Samu is a skillful back-rower with a proven track record of winning.

Wilson, well this his chance to say age doesn't matter.

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