‘I’m expecting it’ – Wallaby powerhouse embracing ‘target’ on his back against old team

Dylan Coetzee

Wallabies prop Taniela Tupou in action during the Rugby World Cup in France.

Wallabies tighthead prop Taniela Tupou is trying to embrace facing his old team when the Melbourne Rebels clash with the Reds on Friday.

Tupou signed for the Reds in 2014 and made his debut two years later as he settled nicely into the Queensland set-up for a total of nine years before confirming a shock move to the Rebels starting at the beginning of the season.

Ready to be the target

The giant prop nicknamed ‘Tongan Thor’ is not oblivious to the target on his back as it were but is looking to keep his focus on getting the win.

“Yeah, I mean, I’m expecting it,” Tupou said. “If I’m playing this week, they might target me, but that doesn’t really worry me.

“If they want to have a go at me, they can, I’m just going to focus on myself, focus on my team and what we need to do to get the win.”

The Reds have gone through changes of their own with Brad Thorn leaving at the end of last year’s Super Rugby Pacific and Les Kiss taking over the hot seat. It has been a good start to the campaign for Kiss’s men, who secured an impressive win over the Chiefs last weekend who are certainly one of the title favourites.

“I watched the game. They’re looking really good, man, really good,” Tupou said of the Reds. “Seeing Les Kiss and all the coaching staff doing a really good job and the boys are playing really well and it’s going to be a big challenge for us, but I know our boys are looking forward to it.”

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Turbulent in Melbourne

In Melbourne, there has been a lot of off-field noise with the club going into voluntary administration amidst a big financial crisis. However, on-field has been different with the side showing impressive resilience, winning two from their opening three games.

“It’s good to know that we as a team can do that and come from behind,” Tupou said. “Just knowing that we can, not try to do anything different, stick to our game plan, the simple things, and if we do that, then we get ourselves back into the game and come back and get in front.

“That happened in the last two games and going forward, if that happens to us, we know we can do it again. We haven’t had the best start yet so that’s something we’ve been working hard on and hopefully we can fix that, so we don’t have to come back from behind, we can just stay in front and keep staying in front till the end of the game.”

Tupou admits to struggling playing against old teams but believes he has gotten better at it.

“For myself I find it hard to come up against guys that I’ve known for a long time, or my mates, but again I leave everything off the field when I get on the field and if I have to make them hurt to get a win, then I have to do it,” Tupou said.

“But it’s something I’ve struggle with in the past and I think I’ve got better over time.

“Honestly, we’re looking forward to the game on Friday. It’ll be good to go up against some of our mates from the Reds, but my main focus is on us, trying to see what we can do to make our team play well on Friday.”

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