Ireland legend Keith Wood is preparing for trying scoring “phenomenon” Joe Taufete’e, the USA Eagles hooker, to write him out of the rugby history books.
Taufete’e faces Romania in Bucharest on Saturday, needing just two more tries to join Wood, the former Ireland and Lions star, as the highest scoring front row forward in world rugby history. While Wood took 63 tests in Irish and Lions colours over nine years to amass 15 tries, Taufete’e has already collected 13 tries in just 17 appearances for the USA Eagles – an incredible success rate.
Taufete’e, the 26-year-old Worcester Warriors hooker, helped the Eagles to their first-ever win over Samoa in San Sebastian in Spain last Saturday when Will Hooley’s long range penalty gave them a 30-29 victory and has retained his place against Romania to win his 18th cap. Taufete’e scored his 13th international try against Samoa and if he can grab at try in Bucharest, the final test of the Eagles’ Autumn series will take Taufete’e to Dublin to face Ireland where he could equal the record on Wood’s home turf on November 24.
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Wood said: “I never thought my try scoring record would last this long and that has been a real surprise to me. Joe is a phenomenon and to have scored that many tries in such a short time is remarkable and I am not going to be in the records for much longer. I won’t be able to be at the Aviva Stadium for the USA game but I will make sure I am watching and I hope he does get to 15 then or even breaks the record. The role of the hooker has changed over the years and to take on all the responsibilities of the position and also be such a regular try scorer really is impressive.”
The strongly built 19st hooker only made his international debut three years ago against South Africa at the 2015 Rugby World Cup having first picked up a rugby ball for the Belmont Shore RFC U19 team. He spent a year in New Zealand prior to the 2015 World Cup with Otorohanga RFC in Waikato, before earning a professional contract at USA PRO Rugby’s San Diego Breakers. Then came the offer to move to the Premiership with Worcester where his ball carrying has made him a fan’s favourite.
The USA Eagles, who are coached by former Warriors Head Coach Gary Gold, are in the same pool as England at next year’s World Cup in Japan and are currently operating without the injured AJ McGinty the Sale outside half. Gold was delighted with the win over Samoa and said: “There is no doubt the Samoans gave us a good fight in every minute of our test last week. While we are happy to have achieved the result we did, we know there are many factors of our performance that must be tightened up against Romania. The Romanian crowd will be incredibly vocal for their home side and that in and of itself will present an added factor for us to overcome this Saturday.”
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