Leinster boss addresses links to ‘big and powerful’ Taniela Tupou as Rugby Australia lay out their plans

Colin Newboult

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

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has not denied that they are trying to sign the Wallabies’ powerhouse prop Taniela Tupou.

The Irish province are looking for a replacement for Michael Ala’alatoa, who has signed for Clermont Auvergne ahead of the 2024/25 season.

Tupou would therefore be an incredible signing but they reportedly face competition from wealthy Top 14 club Montpellier.

The tighthead is still under contract at the Melbourne Rebels until the end of 2025, but that situation could change given the Australian side’s financial struggles.

Remaining coy

Cullen was therefore asked about the prop and where they stood. Leinster’s boss understandably remained coy but the 46-year-old did not rule out bringing in the player known as ‘Tongan Thor’.

“There’s a lot of speculation at the moment now,” he said.

“We’re very much focused on the here and the now. He’s (Tupou) certainly big and powerful anyway, isn’t he? We admire lots of players out there, so we do, but we’ve nothing official to announce unfortunately.”

Tug-of-war for Tongan Thor heats up as wealthy French club compete with Leinster

Rugby Australia (RA) have also stated their position with new director of high performance Peter Horne speaking about Tupou’s situation.

Unsurprisingly, they remain keen to retain the services of the tighthead, who would be a valuable asset to Wallabies head coach Joe Schmidt should he stay free of injury.

“We need we keep all our best players within the system, and we want to make sure that they’re performing and reaching their potential within Super Rugby and then available for selection,” Horne told reporters.

“We desperately want to see all players perform well in this competition. Then it’s over to Joe and the team to find the best combination for the Wallabies.

“At the moment, yeah, 100 per cent we’d like to see Taniela stay.”

Rebels’ problems

Horne also discussed the Rebels’ issues, who are currently in administration and may not last beyond this season.

Should the Rebels fold then that will leave the players in limbo and could result in several talented individuals departing overseas, but RA’s director of high performance insists that they have “contingency plans” for that eventuality.

“The primary focus is obviously to get through the administration process as quickly as possible,” Horne said.

“Joe is in contact with the players on a regular basis. I tell you now, the agents constantly contact us. So that’s OK, we’ll keep the dialogue going.

“We don’t want to lose anyone, we want to keep them in our system. They’re important to our overall broader rugby environment and we need we need as many of our best players to stay, regardless of what the outcome is.”

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