Taniela Tupou will arrive at the World Cup as the fresh face of a Wallabies forward pack feeling as if he “owes Australia something”.
Nicknamed Tongan Thor, it would be easy to assume everything is simple in the powerful prop’s crash and bash world.
But Tupou – the pup of the Australian forward pack at 23 and with soft hands that belie his 130kg frame – admitted after Saturday’s tight Test defeat of Argentina that the season had been testing.
On the cusp of re-signing with Rugby Australia, the Queensland Reds powerhouse is back to his best and part of a forward pack that’s doing as coach Michael Cheika hoped before September’s World Cup.
“There’s an offer on the table … I’ll make my decision in the next few months but I think I still owe Australia something,” he said.
“I haven’t done much here … and I think I might end up staying here.
“At the start of this year I went through a lot, some personal stuff, and it was really tough for me.
“To be honest I didn’t even think I’d be in a team because in my head I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t enjoying it, but I did the right thing in speaking up.”
They proved the difference in the end, scrum penalties leading to the Wallabies’ only second-half points as the hosts learnt to accumulate in a much-needed 16-10 victory.
It was a far rosier outcome for Tupou than the preceding week in Johannesburg, where he had his phone stolen out of his hand and was then dubiously yellow-carded for a late hit deemed a shoulder charge by officials in the loss to South Africa.
Tupou admitted he had stopped himself from barrelling into a similar scenario in Brisbane and his coach said those efforts hadn’t gone unnoticed.
“Taniela’s been working on himself hard to get better (to see) if he can fulfil his potential,” Cheika said.
“I thought the starting front row and the replacements did very well.”
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