From his roots in Tonga to his route to Test rugby

Who is Taniela Tupou: Ten things you should know about ‘Tongan Thor’

Wallabies prop Taniela Tupou is a fans’ favourite with his powerful runs and deft offloads, while his scrummaging isn’t half-bad either!

Ten things you should know about Taniela Tupou

1. Taniela Tupou was born on 10 May 1996 in Vaini, Tongatapu in Tonga, a town with a population of fewer than 3,000.

2. Prop Tupou became an internet sensation as an 18-year-old playing for Sacred Heart College in New Zealand and scoring three tries against Kelston Boys’ High School in 2014.

He was immediately dubbed the ‘Tongan Thor’ and was on the radar of the All Blacks. Former New Zealand stars Sean Fitzpatrick and Kieran Crowley are former pupils of Sacred Heart, in Auckland.

3. Tupou didn’t sign a loyalty agreement with the New Zealand Rugby Union in 2014, which would have made him eligible for NZ Schools, and announced he was moving to Australia to be with his sister and brother. He is eligible for Australia on residency.

4. In 2015 Tupou played for Brothers Old Boys, who once had John Eales on their books, in Queensland Premiership Rugby then joined Queensland Country in the NRC before playing for Queensland U20 and the Reds.

5. Tupou’s Reds debut came in 2016 and he revealed subsequently he had signed for the club when he met general manager Sam Cordingley in an Auckland branch of McDonald’s.

6. Tupou made his Test debut off the bench against Scotland at Murrayfield in a 53-24 defeat on 25 November 2017.

He was used as a replacement for his next five games, getting his first start against South Africa on 29 September 2018. Australia won 30-17 in Brisbane.

7. That debut came just days after he became eligible for Australia. Tupou had been on the 2016 tour as a 20-year-old development player but was unable to play.

8. According to stats published at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, the powerful Tupou is 181cm tall (5ft 11in) and weighs 132kg (20st 11lb).

9. In July 2019, whilst in Johannesburg ahead of a Rugby Championship game with South Africa, Tupou escaped with minor injuries when he had his mobile phone snatched in the street. Reports said he chased the thief as he tried to escape in a car but was called off by team-mates. The prop suffered cuts to his arm.

10. In 2020 and 2021 Tupou won the Stan Pilecki Medal for being the Reds Players’ Player of the Year. Previous two-time winners include Will Genia and Jason Little.

Pilecki was a former Queensland prop and the first man to play 100 times for the state.

Download the digital edition of Rugby World straight to your tablet or subscribe to the print edition to get the magazine delivered to your door.

Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.