Jones: Rebels-bound Tupou can be the 'best tighthead in the world'
NEWS: Eddie Jones expects Taniela Tupou to become the world’s best tighthead prop, admitting the 26-year-old has been found out by Test rivals after arriving on the scene “in a blaze of glory”.
Tupou’s shift to the Melbourne Rebels from 2024 on a two-year deal, after nine years at the Queensland Reds, was confirmed by Rugby Australia on Friday.
Recovering from an Achilles tear, he has almost certainly played his last game for the Reds but is targeting a playing return in time for the World Cup in September.
While a loss at Ballymore, his new deal is a win for Australian rugby, with Jones not needing to use an overseas selection on a prop who had been eyeing a future in Japan or Europe.
New Wallabies mentor Jones coached against Tupou while at England and admitted the man who arrived on the scene as a 17-year-old sensation had been slowed in recent years.
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“That’s not unusual for a young tighthead,” Jones said.
“They come in a blaze of glory, then people work out their strengths, take them away and you’ve got to work out how to become a better player again.
“But he’ll be the best tighthead in the world; he can do things nobody else can and we have to give him every opportunity to be his best.”
Jones said with a fit-again Tupou alongside the recently re-signed Allan Alaalatoa the Wallabies had an “extraordinary” front row.
“100 per cent he changes the team [if he’s fit to play at the World Cup],” Jones said.
“Between him and Alaalatoa, the quality of 80 minutes we can get out of that position.
“It’s a two-man position, the amount of work they have to do.
“If we can get both of those guys fit, the quality we’ll have at the World Cup will be extraordinary.”
“Who starts and who finishes [from the bench] will be horses for courses.”
Tupou has played 47 Tests and 87 times for the Reds.
“I’d like to thank Rugby Australia and the Melbourne Rebels for the opportunity to continue my career here in Australia for the next two years,” Tupou said.
“I’d also like to thank the Queensland Reds and the fans for the last nine seasons. I’ve made some great memories, met some lifelong friends and I’ll be doing everything I can to help them be successful this year.
“I’m excited by the future of Australian rugby with a Lions tour on the horizon [in 2025] but my priority is to work hard on my rehab and get back on the field as soon as possible.”
His move will be a boost for the Rebels both on and off the field, with Tupou one of the most marketable Wallabies thanks to his talent and cheek.