First it was Mack Hansen – and now it’s Sione Tuipulotu who’s ready to bring some more Australian flair to the Six Nations rugby championship.
Canberra’s flying wing Hansen proved one of the stars of the opening weekend with his player-of-the-match debut for Ireland against Wales last Saturday.
Now, after a cameo off the bench against England, Melbourne’s former Rebel Tuipolotu has been rewarded with a place in Scotland’s starting XV for Saturday’s match against the struggling Welsh in Cardiff.
Tuipolutu, who’ll be making his first Six Nations start on his third appearance for the Scots, hails from the Melbourne suburb of Frankston and is being tipped by coach Gregor Townsend to bring some more creative flair into the Scottish back line.
The 24-year-old with Tongan roots, who’s become a firm favourite in Glasgow with their Warriors team, qualifies through his Scottish maternal grandmother and family matriarch Jaqueline, who emigrated from the biggest city to Melbourne when she was a young woman.
Jaqueline’s daughter married a Tongan and they had five kids in Frankston – the middle one being Sione, who earned a rugby scholarship at St Kevin’s College.
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At one point, Tuipulotu looked destined for a Wallabies career as he represented Australia’s under-20s – actually, playing against the Scots in the 2016 junior world championships.
After spells with the Rebels and in Japan, with Yamaha Jubilo in 2018, his latest adventure took him to Glasgow last September where he quickly came to the attention of Townsend, earning his full debut against Tonga, the land of his father, the following month.
“It’s basically what led to my decision to come over here. I really wanted to play Test footy, or try to play Test footy, for a country where I have heritage,” Tuipulotu has explained.
His swift rise echoes that of 23-year-old Hansen, who was rushed into Andy Farrell’s side thanks to his Irish mother after making a swift mark at Connacht and will now play his second international in Paris against France on Saturday.
Tuipulotu’s inclusion is one of five changes Townsend has made to the Scottish team who beat England, with the Aussie replacing his club mate Sam Johnson.
“Sione brings a different dimension,” said Townsend.
“He’s a different player to Sam (Johnson) and Cam (Redpath), the other players that were in consideration for 12. He’s a very creative player and he can bring others into play. He’s also got his long running game.
“We’ve picked combinations we believe can work against the way Wales play and the way we want to play.”