After a seemingly endless period of political one-upmanship and jockeying for position, Australia and New Zealand have finally arrived at a sensible compromise for Super Rugby 2021.
Newly-signed Wallabies prop Taniela Tupou is used to being the odd man out in Auckland, so he’ll feel right at home heading into Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup showdown.
Tupou, who penned a fresh four-year deal with the Wallabies and Queensland Reds on Monday, grew up in Tonga a Wallabies fan.
He then went to Auckland rugby school Sacred Heart College, which has produced more than 20 All Blacks including former skipper Sean Fitzpatrick.
But the wrecking-ball forward, who was part of Australia’s thumping 47-26 win over the All Blacks in Perth on Saturday, never changed his unpopular allegiance.
“When I was young in Tonga I used to wake up and watch (the Wallabies) against the All Blacks and against South Africa,” the 23-year-old said.
“I used to watch James O’Connor and stuff and I was a big fan of Radike Samo, Will Genia and Quade Cooper.
“I went to New Zealand but I was still supporting Australia – back in school I was the only one supporting the Wallabies and the rest were supporting the All Blacks so it’s crazy now that I am here playing for Australia.
“I have come a long way.”
Tupou turned his back on some big overseas offers to re-sign until the 2023 World Cup but didn’t really consider going anywhere else.
“I’m happy here,” he said. “There’s some work to do here, so I’m going to work on myself and then after this deal we’ll see how we go after that.”
The “Tongan Thor” has won praise from teammates after taking his game and professionalism to a new level.
While a viral sensation at school for his bull-dozing runs, he has worked hard to improve his scrummaging to become a world class prop.
Lock Rory Arnold says he’s seen huge growth.
“I remember first seeing him, the YouTube sensation, an awesome highlights reel of him running over kids, running amok,” Arnold said.
“He’s got a massive future and to have him around for another four years is a good thing for Australian rugby.
“Being so young, it would have been disappointing to lose a player like that overseas so I’m happy that he’s hung around and I can’t wait to see what he has to offer over the next four years.”