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'This kid has got a massive future': Returning Chief's injury bounce back comes at the perfect time

By Sam Smith
Quinn Tupaea. (Photo by John Cowpland/Photosport)

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Quinn Tupaea made a name for himself with Hamilton Boys’ High School and was quickly signed by the Waikato Rugby Union as a midfielder with immense potential.

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While Tupaea made an instant impact in provincial rugby, finishing as the Mitre 10 Cup’s seventh top try-scorer in 2018, it took the youngster some time to find his feet at Super Rugby level, making his debut in last year’s competition.

One year on, the 22-year-old is making all the right moves if he’s looking to play at the highest level of the game and book a spot in the All Blacks ahead of their 2021 campaign.

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With Ngani Laumape heading offshore, another spot in the New Zealand midfield has opened up and the recently re-signed Tupaea could be the lucky man who fills it. While he’s got some areas of his game that certainly need shoring up, his performances for the Chiefs in the early stages of this year’s campaign would certainly have had him on the selectors’ radar.

A knee injury suffered against the Highlanders was thought to have curtailed his season but Tupaea has returned sooner than expected and lined up alongside Anton Lienert-Brown in the Chiefs midfield over the weekend, making an instant impact.

Speaking on the latest episode of the Aotearoa Rugby Pod, former All Blacks hooker James Parsons was adamant that Tupaea is destined for big things.

“What took my notice on the weekend is Quinn Tupaea and Anton Lienert-Brown together,” Parsons said. “Man, we know Anton’s outstanding but Quinn Tupaea…

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“If I use Kaleb Trask’s second try, he busts through the line off the scrum [but] there are other aspects of his game. He’s cleaning rucks, he bounces back up, he gets another touch. [He’s making good] defensive reads. I think this kid has got a massive future at the next level but also he seems to be getting a great relationship with Anton.”

49-cap All Blacks centre Lienert-Brown scored two tries for the Chiefs as well as notching up 106 metres with the ball in hand. His centres partner, Tupaea, wasn’t far behind in the attacking stats with 100 metres run as well as two clean breaks, six defenders beaten and two offloads.

Parsons’ co-panellist on the Aotearoa Rugby Pod, Crusaders centurion Byrn Hall, was also impressed with Tupaea’s return to action.

“I was fortunate enough to spend a bit of time with him at the New Zealand Maoris last year and he had a lot of raps coming off him,” Hall said.

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“[He] had a really good Mitre 10 Cup [in 2019] and then came in last year at Super Rugby playing at centre – and he’s usually a 12, talking to him at camp. Playing at that 13, [it was probably] defensively that he struggled a little bit but I think that him going into 12, which is a better feel for him, and working with Anton, who’s outside him, he’s special.

“He’s abrasive, he’s good in contact defensively. When he does make tackles, he’s really physical and with the ball in hand, that’s a massive attribute for him. He’s been through [gaps] a lot of times in games due to running really nice lines or, one-on-one, beating them with his footwork, so he’s got that all-round ability and just through time, he’s going to get better with that game management and understanding what it takes to be a 12. I think he’s a kid to watch for the future.”

Both Parsons and Hall also acknowledged the work of Alex Nankivell, who filled the gap in the midfield in Tupaea’s absence, and suggested that the Chiefs are build some excellent depth in the position.

Despite the performances of Lienert-Brown and Tupaea, the Chiefs weren’t able to record a bonus point against the Rebels over the weekend, which further dampens the slim chances that the side had of making the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final. As such, they will likely play their last game of the competition on Sunday when they tackle the Waratahs in Sydney.

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'This kid has got a massive future': Returning Chief's injury bounce back comes at the perfect time

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