“Tongan Thor” is on a mission of revenge after his first debacle


A team from MAKESHIFT Scotland did a fairly efficient job of shipping Tonga with minimal fuss on Saturday, but they are not yet done dealing with the formidable rugby talent produced by this tiny archipelago in the Pacific Ocean ( approximately 104,000 inhabitants).

Next is Australia, which means facing the daunting physical challenge posed by Taniela Tupou, their 5ft 10in, 21 stone tight head prop also known as ‘Tongan Thor’, who has a point to prove after suffering the indignity of being on the wrong side of a score of 53- 26 on his international debut against the same opposition at the same location in November 2017.

“It’s funny because I arrived at the hotel on Monday and got the key to my room, and they put me in the same room I was in 2017,” the young man said from 25 years. “It’s good to be back and I can’t wait to have another game against them. I did not watch that [2017] second leg, but we all know it wasn’t the best game for us, and hopefully we’ll change that around this weekend.


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Tupou was 21 when he stepped off the bench that day to fill the void left in Australia’s front row created by Sekobe Kepu for a reckless shoulder load on Hamish watson late in the first half. He has since taken his cap total to 36, but for the vast majority of that time he appears to have been classified as an impact sub, starting just seven of his first 32 games in the famous gold jersey.

However, he is now on the field at the start of four rebound games and his form has been exceptional. He earned his spot on the front row after a strong display on the bench in Australia’s surprise 28-26 victory over South Africa at the Gold Coast Rugby Championship in early September. The following week he was exceptional in both the tight and the loose for 78 minutes against the Springboks (again) at Bisbane, with his performance including dynamic ball carrying and fantastic handling skills that included unloading. sensational to put on Marika Koroibete away for the test that put the Wallabies in the driver’s seat in

a 30-17 victory.

Tupou then continued in that vein by securing back-to-back victories for Australia against Argentina in Townsville and on the Gold Coast, and against Japan in Oita during a stopover en route to this year-end jamboree in United Kingdom, which will also take place in matches against England and Wales.

Despite the upheaval caused by the late recalls of the Japan-based trio Quade Cooper, Samu Kerevi and Sean mcmahon, the Wallabies arrived in the UK early last week on a good footing, having won their last five rebound games – including two against the Springboks – and Tupou has played an absolutely central role in this rich series of forms. .

“I’m a lot older now, not just a kid who joined the team, so I can be myself with the boys,” he said. “I can offer something as well, rather than just sitting there wondering if I’m going to play again.”

Tupou was born and raised until the age of 14 in Tonga as the youngest of a family of 11 children. After receiving a scholarship from Sacred Heart College in Auckland, his first real appearance on the rugby mainstream radar came during his final school year in 2014, following an all-in-action performance in a nationally televised game and went viral globally. , featuring the prop showing all the raw power, pace and handling ability when performing in three tries, two of which over 50 yards.

Coaches and scouts across the rugby landscape have taken note. He was sued by English and French clubs, and the New Zealand rugby union put pressure on him to sign a loyalty deal to play for the All Blacks as a prerequisite for their national team’s representation. schoolchildren. It’s a reminder that Scotland is not the only rugby nation to treat national identity as a throwaway commodity.

Tupou chose another path. He had always supported the Wallabies, although he had never lived in the country until then, so he hopped on a plane to join the Queensland Reds, starting his three-year residency requirement which culminated in those debut. unfavorable on the bench four years ago.

Of course, Tupou isn’t the only Australian camp member who thinks he has a point to prove this weekend. A handful of other players – including the captain Michael hooper, Koroibete winger and utility rear Reece hodge – played in this humiliation of 2017; while the head coach Dave rennie, defense coach Matt taylor and scrum coach Pétrus du Plessis would like to have one on their former employers.

Tupou reveals that Taylor, in particular, is a man on a mission. “From the way he’s been at the start of this week, he really wants to win this game,” he explained.

“It means a lot to him, and he told us about some of the players we need to look for and what we need to do to win. So we know what we have to do, and we just have to go out and do it this weekend.

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Rugby Rugby Australia Director Scott Johnson, will also be back on familiar ground this Sunday, having spent seven years on Murrayfield’s payroll as National Team Assistant Coach, National Team Interim Head Coach and Rugby Director of performance for Scottish rugby, before returning to his homeland. in December 2018.

Reports from Australia indicate this could be his farewell tour. With an imminent reshuffle to Rugby Australia’s performance department, it is strongly suggested that the 59-year-old could be one of the guys stranded when the music goes down, thanks in large part to a salary that is said to be in the region of $ 500.00 (£ 275,000) which the cash-strapped governing body can hardly afford.

His contract ends at the end of the year, and it has been reported that the position may be terminated. He can no longer count on the protection of Raëlène Castle, the CEO who appointed him, and who left the organization (before being pushed) in April 2020 after losing the trust and support of key stakeholders in the game, including his own board of directors .

Johnson said earlier this year he didn’t think his work with Rugby Australia was over yet, but his prospects of retaining the job couldn’t be helped by Cooper’s farrago, Kerevi and McMahon, who ultimately did cost Rennie three of his most important. players for this trip.

The trio have chosen to stay with their clubs in Japan for the time being rather than travel to Europe with the Australian squad. As director of rugby, the responsibility for not finding the best solution for Australia in this situation ultimately rests with Johnson. He has been criticized for having the stated strategy of not engaging with agents as well as players on this issue, which is interesting considering the preponderance of rugby staff linked to giant talent agency Esportif. employed by Scottish Rugby during her tenure at Murrayfield Headquarters.

In fact, questions have also been raised in Australia about Esportif’s booming presence since Johnson’s appointment as DOR.

“Why do we have all these coaches who are represented by Esportif? Alan Jones asked in The Australian in January 2020, before describing what he considered to be “an ongoing effrontery about the behavior of those who administer our game”.

“What happens when the once proud NSW Rugby becomes a staging lounge for New Zealand coaches and fellow administrators? Jones asked. “From the outside, and few are welcome on the inside, it still appears that Johnson and the sports agency Esportif are using the Waratahs franchise as a halfway house for struggling Kiwi coaches and administrators.”

Jones added:

“What is more worrying, once again from the outside, it seems that the Esportif agency is using its host of coaches to launch its player agency in Australia.

“Esportif moved to Sydney last year. They have been busy securing their coaching jobs in Australian rugby while registering many successful Australian under-18 players.

“How did the NSW / Waratahs franchise fall into this pit?”

“Is Johnson a shareholder in Esportif? And if not, why does he fill our coaching positions with predominantly Kiwi coaches represented mainly by Esportif? Make no mistake, L’Esportif now has many well-placed coaches and decision-makers in Australian rugby.

“Johnson has given them a huge boost as they launch their sports agent business in Australia.

“It will be understood that the Athlete can now recruit young Australian players on the assumption that they also represent the coaches who select the players and make contract offers.

“It doesn’t help that Johnson himself is represented by Esportif.

“As this company grows its business in Australia, we need to be aware of the influence they seek and, in fact, have on coaches and players.

“The rugby family must be wondering if they are comfortable with Johnson using Esportif as their preferred supplier of coaches and players.”

Similar points were raised and questions asked during Johnson’s time in Scotland, notably by Marc Palmer of the Sunday Times. A satisfying explanation for this seemingly too warm relationship has never been provided.

Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your point of view, gambling has always ended up being a suitable distraction. And that will continue in the era of private equity and global marketing agencies, with players like ‘Tongan Thor’ providing the box office appeal that the money men thrive on and hide behind.


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