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Japanese detour possible for Taniela Tupou on eager Road to 2027

Fri, 13/05/2022, 3:35 am
Jim Tucker
by Jim Tucker
Game On for Australia's Bid to host Rugby World Cup 2027-29 Hype Reel

A sabbatical season playing in Japan is shaping as the lucrative carrot to keep giant prop Taniela Tupou fresh and firing all the way to the 2027 Rugby World Cup.

Australia being awarded hosting rights for rugby’s showpiece tournament in 2027 will have many spin-offs and figuring strongly in Tupou’s career plan is another.

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On Friday, Tupou voiced the delight of all in Australian rugby over World Rugby’s decision to award the 2027 staging to his adopted country.

Tupou is one of the hottest properties in the game and is even more so because he’s off-contract after next year’s World Cup in France.

He has consistently teased that where he plays in 2024 is not a done deal but he elaborated just a bit more at this 2027 World Cup hosting celebration in Brisbane.

“I’ll be too old by then in my 30s,” Tupou joked.

“I feel like I’m 30 now but hopefully I’m still playing good footy in 2027 and Dave is still picking me.

“I’d love to play in front of the fans at Suncorp Stadium in a World Cup. I know the feeling of playing there and it would be awesome.”

Tupou gave a strong indication that a season in Japan would freshen his body from the weekly rigours of Super Rugby and could prolong his career in Australia.

“I have to make a decision over the next few months...staying here in Australia for the long run or go somewhere,” Tupou said.

“I mean I’d love to go to...I need a break from Super Rugby (at some stage).

“If that means going to Japan and coming back, I don’t know. That’s up to my manager to work out.”

Tupou’s teasing half-answers did include some strong pillars. He values highly his time at the Queensland Reds where he has been transformed from a teenager of raw gifts into a marquee player of 80-plus games.

“I’ve been here since 2014. I’d love to play 100 games for the Reds and who knows what I’m going to do after that...go to Rockhampton,” he said.

Tupou is too magnetic a figure not to be one of the faces of Australia’s public campaign to amplify the 2027 World Cup hosting to the full.

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie revealed that upbeat talks with Tupou’s player agent have included discussions about a season abroad within the structure of a new Rugby Australia contract.

“We are keen to keep Taniela. He's keen to stay and we’ve had really positive talks with his representatives,” Rennie said.

“All those things are on the table around sabbaticals. In the end, it’s hard to compete with the money out of Japan so working in with that can make it attractive and affordable.

“He’s a helluva player with a genuine point of difference. We all love him and want him to stay so obviously we looking to extend (his contract) beyond 2023.”

Tupou's did reveal it is unlikely he'll be fit for the Reds again this season which is a major blow to their hopes in next month's Super Rugby Pacific quarter-finals.

He is still a long way off running on his injured left calf muscle and the six-to-eight week injury will likely give him only a few strong weeks build-up for the July Test series against England.

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