Why Quinn Tupaea's selection in the All Blacks was always inevitable
Quinn Tupaea has always been a player with extremely high prospects in the shadows ahead.
The scary thing is that his career is really only beginning on the main stage. Tupaea certainly hadn’t let go of his All Blacks ambitions following his untimely knee injury two months ago, he just thought his shot would have to wait another season.
Ian Foster’s first All Blacks squad for 2021 packs a punch, but not in the way some may have expected. This is a team that is built around established experience but also leaves a lot of headroom for new talent that Foster and co see as the future in some very key positions.
As one of the four new faces, Tupaea really stands out as one who could bolster the physicality in the midfield.
It has taken less than three years as a professional for the laid-back character to achieve international selection.
It all started in school rugby. With the luxury of representing Hamilton Boy’s High School, there is little doubt that cutting his teeth at one of the best rugby schools in New Zealand under a coach with the pedigree of Nigel Hotham put the 22-year old in great position to go forward with what were undeniable skill sets.
As it turns out, this was also when Tupaea discovered a drive to one day be an All Black.
“I started really thinking about it when I was at high school in Year 12 and 13 when I was playing First XV”, Tupaea told media on Tuesday.
“It’s exciting to be in the All Blacks setup and to learn off the experienced midfielders they have there is pretty exciting too so it will be about me getting in there and developing my game.”
It’s the midfield which has garnered a lot of attention in the build-up to first All Black squad announcement of the year.
The policy of selecting new players such as Tupaea to develop them for future stardom is a ploy not unheard of within the All Blacks and it may again turn out to be a smart move.
Some might say that the big, blasting ball-runner is still unseen in this particular back line. Ngani Laumape fitted that role perfectly, and with him completely out of the picture, the challenge is to find that next genuine physical specimen that can keep opposition defences two to a man at any time.
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The All Blacks need to find this asset fast, for the health of others in the midfield if anything else. What’s also true is that the eyes don’t lie in rugby. Tupaea could be the man for this role at some point in the future.
Many would’ve noticed that he elevated his game to another level this season. Of note, the performance that Tupaea put in against the Blues during Super Rugby Aotearoa showed a new level of intensity to his running and power game.
During the 2020/21 offseason, it was noticeable to all in Chiefs country that Tupaea had added some weight to his 97kg frame.
Coupled with a desire to get involved and carry harder, Tupaea says he won’t be arriving into the All Blacks environment lacking any confidence.
“I’m pretty confident in my ball carrying abilities and would like to think I work pretty hard around the field supporting players and working hard on defence making tackles.
“Learning game plans for me this year and last year has become pretty easy and the habits I’ve had during game weeks about learning stuff. I’m pretty confident in learning a new playbook and being able to use that on the field.”
Confidence, you sense, has carried Tupaea well through his journey from schoolboy star, captaining New Zealand Schools, making a serious impression with Waikato in the NPC, and then the Chiefs in Super Rugby.
Couple that with the evidence that this confidence can be backed up, perhaps it was inevitable that Foster and the All Blacks would come calling.
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