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Taniela Tupou looking to 'reach the next level' in fresh start with Rebels

By AAP
Taniela Tupou at Wallabies training. Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images

Melbourne Rebels recruit Taniela Tupou has narrowed his focus as he seeks to put a painful World Cup experience and injury-riddled two years behind him.

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Tupou managed just one appearance in France as the Wallabies crashed to an embarrassing pool-stage exit, his tournament brought to a premature end by a hamstring problem.

It was the latest in a long line of setbacks for the 27-year-old front-rower, who questioned his rugby future after rupturing an Achilles a year ago.

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“It was a tough few months but it’s all done now,” Tupou told reporters at the Rebels’ AAMI Park base on Thursday.

“I’m back to work now and I’ve got a new goal and that’s to perform for the Rebels.

“The World Cup hurts, but that’s behind me now. It’s time to look forward.”

A fresh start with Melbourne under Kevin Foote could be the answer Tupou is looking for.

The former Queensland Reds man, who turned out for the Barbarians invitational team against Wales last month, is now injury-free and carefully working his way into pre-season training with the Rebels.

If his body holds up, Tupou might yet live up to former Wallabies coach Eddie Jones’s prediction that he will flourish into a world-class tighthead prop.

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But that’s looking too far ahead for the man dubbed the ‘Tongan Thor’.

“I just want to be on the field to start with,” Tupou said.

“The last few years I’ve been unlucky with injuries and the strength and conditioning staff here (at the Rebels) have done a great job with managing that.

“For me to reach the next level with my game … I know the fitter I am, the better I’ll be on the field.”

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There’s another element Foote hopes to provide his boom addition in order to get the best out of him on the field.

“Happiness. What we know about Taniela is if he’s happy, he plays pretty well,” Foote said.

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“Understanding what he values, making sure that him and his family are well looked after in Melbourne and he’s got a smile on his face.

“If he’s smiling, we’ll go well.”

Tupou is one of seven Wallabies in the revamped Rebels squad and leads a beefed-up pack alongside Test forward Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, who spent last season playing for UK club Northampton.

“We’ve got a real physical team, not only forward pack, and that’s something that will speak to the way we want to play,” Foote said.

“We know that we get our speed through our contact and our physicality.

“The team will be quite intimidating, we’ve just got to make sure they play for each other now.”

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