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'You're not weak in speaking up': Taniela Tupou's message after emotional rehab

By AAP
Taniela Tupou. (Photo by Brian Lawless/PA Images via Getty Images)

Fearing his World Cup dream had been wrecked by serious injury, Wallabies prop Taniela Tupou says he contemplated walking away from rugby.

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Tupou is primed for a return to the Test arena in Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup clash with New Zealand in Melbourne after rupturing an achilles playing against Ireland last November.

Wallabies coach Eddie Jones said earlier this year that the ‘Tongan Thor’ could become the world’s best tight-head prop.

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But that description seemed a long way away for Tupou, who said he went to a “very dark place” as he raced the clock to recover for the game’s global showpiece in France starting in early September.

“When I did my achilles last year I thought the worst,” the 27-year-old said.

“I was in my last year of my contract, I thought I was going to miss World Cup, just everything you know – I was in a very dark place.

“The last eight to nine months has been tough, to do all the rehab … there was a time where I really thought about my future in footy.

“It was just mentally hard.”

Tupou, who will shift from Queensland to play for the Melbourne Rebels next Super Rugby Pacific season, said he had to learn to speak up and ask for help from his Wallabies brethren and staff to climb out of the mental hole.

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Known as one of the jokers in the squad, Tupou said it was tough to be vulnerable.

“Before, I was one of those guys where speaking up was not an option. But you find out you’re not weak in speaking up,” said Tupou.

“So I had to learn the new skill of talking or speaking up when I needed to.

“I find it really helpful, just knowing that someone knows what you’re going through. Every now and then they come and check on you and it feels good.

“I’m here now and I couldn’t be any happier – I’m just grateful I’m here in this position and I’m grateful I’m back in the team.”

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Born in Tonga before shifting to Australia via New Zealand, and making his international debut in 2017, Tupou said he circled the Australia A match against Tonga in Nuku’alofa earlier this month for his return.

Tupou said playing in his homeland was an emotional experience.

“I asked Eddie (Jones) if I could play Australia A as these games never happen in Tonga,” said Tupou, who became a father last year.

“For someone like myself, who grew up in Tonga and played in that stadium when I was in school, to have the opportunity to go back and perform in front of my family, it just felt a full circle for me.

“It was by far the highlight of my career, I get a bit emotional talking about it because it means so much to me.”

He played 40 minutes in that match to stamp himself ready for game one of the Bledisloe Cup at the MCG, where he will add to his 47 Tests.

If selected to face the All Blacks, Tupou said he was determined to put in a performance to repay those who supported him through his rehabilitation.

“If I get a chance to play I’m going to put in a performance that those guys are proud of, that I’m proud of, as I didn’t get here on my own,” he said.

“There’s a lot of people that got me here so I want to put in a performance they’re proud of as a way of me thanking them.”

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Shaylen 7 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

These guys will be utility players Nick it cannot be helped because coaches cannot help themselves. Rassie looks at players like these and sees the ability to cover multiple positions without losing much. It allows the 6-2 or 7-1. He wont change his coaching style or strategy for one player. At provincial level players like these are indispensable. If there is an injury to your starting 12 but your back up 12 is a bit iffy then a coach is going to go with the back up 10 who is gold and who can play a good 12. Damian Willemse for the Springboks is an obvious case, for the Stormers its the same. Dobson plays him at 12 or 15, with Gelant in the team he plays 12 but if Gelant goes down he doesnt go for his back up 15, he just puts Willemse there. With Frawley its the same at international and provincial level. He just slots in wherever. Frans Steyn made a career out of it. He was much maligned though as a youngster as he never fully developed into any role. He then went to Japan and France to decide for himself what kind of player he was, put on muscle and retained his big boot, ran over players and booted the ball long and came back into the Springboks after about 3 years away and was then certain about how he wanted to play the game no matter what position. Coaches cannot help themselves because they only want what is best for their teams and that means putting your most talented players on even if it means you cause them some discomfort. Sometimes players need to decide how they want to play the game and then adapt that to every position and let the coach decide how they want to use them.

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