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'Such an emotional guy': Why RA should let their biggest star leave for the sake of the Wallabies

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25th March, 2024
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A move overseas could be the catalyst to reinvigorate an “emotional” Taniela Tupou, who looks weighed down by the recent events affecting the Melbourne Rebels.

That’s the verdict from his former Wallabies teammate Matt To’omua, co-host of The Roar Rugby Podcast.

Tupou, who left Queensland Reds last season to join the Rebels on a big money deal, has struggled for form in the wake of several injury issues stretching back over the last 18 months.

The Roar Rugby Podcast hosts Matt To’omua and Christy Doran are joined by Brumbies backrower Luke Reimer. Listen in the player below or in your podcast app of choice

The 27-year-old has been linked to a move to Irish club Leinster and while there several reasons why Rugby Australia would be keen to keep him in Australia, To’omua believes an overseas move would be beneficial to all parties.

“He’s starting to get the golden years for a prop. He comes over from Auckland, quite young, was at the Reds for eight or so years, comes down to the Rebels, wants to start afresh, get a new sense of things, and then all this happens in the off-season,” said To’omua.

“Fair enough if he’s wanting to go to Europe and play a little bit of rugby there and earn some money. And from the Australian rugby point of view: yes, we lose him from a marketing side on Super Rugby, but do we gain more by keeping a million dollars that we can invest into community rugby or other guys and then we can use him for the marketing for Wallabies anyway?”

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Taniela Tupou of the Wallabies looks on ahead of their Rugby World Cup France 2023 match against Fiji at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on September 16, 2023 in Saint-Etienne, France. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Taniela Tupou. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

While accepting there will be some downside, the upside is how it will help Tupou as a Wallabies player.

“Of course, it’s going to be a loss, but I also think he’ll be such a better player in a few years’ time,” To’omua said.

“Having to play in a system like Leinster, who probably challenge Crusaders in terms of consistency over time, I think you’d only benefit from it.”

As well as a new playing challenge, there is the hope that a move would give the Tongan Thor a psychological boost.

“Taniela is an amazing player, there’s no doubt,” said To’omua. “He is so well respected around the world in terms of his rugby but his consistency will come when he’s happy. He’s such a jovial guy.

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“He’s such an emotional guy and he’s a leader in that sense too. He’s influential. He’s funny and you want him happy.

“I feel like there’s almost a case of, not flogging a dead horse, but a situation that’s not working here where he’s trying something here, trying something here.

Taniela Tupou. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)

“It might be a case of go overseas, get a fresh kind of view on things, get new eyes on him in terms of coaching, play a new system, a new competition, learn a new way. It could really benefit him.

“Yeah, sure, we might lose him and there’s a bit of short-term pain but he’s 27. You’d like to think we’ve got a good five years out of him at least left.

“From a purely playing point of view, what better way to prepare yourself to play against the British and Irish Lions than playing in URC, playing in the Heineken in Europe. Are there benefits from that side of it? If you have your starting prop who’s been playing alongside these guys benefiting, he only needs a minimal time back in the Wallabies program to get going.

“I probably see it more from a personal level where you probably see Taniela at the moment. He looks emotionally that things are quite heavy and I think he could really benefit from kind of a new perspective on things.”

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