Thorn hammers it home for Thor
TANIELA Tupou has revealed a straight-talking push from Brad Thorn "to focus on becoming the best tighthead prop in the world" has redefined the game of our biggest Wallaby.
Tupou, 21, is the most exciting of Australia's new breed of young rugby forwards and not just because he puts 133kg of clout behind every move.
What is so upbeat about the rise of "Tongan Thor" for the blockbuster June Test series against Ireland is that signs of his full potential are only now shining through.
Tupou's admiration for 91-Test regular Sekope Kepu extends to calling him "Uncle" but he is still intent on challenging him for time against the Irish on June 9 at Suncorp Stadium.
Already, pre-sales on tickets are ahead of the magnetic first Test of the 2016 series against Eddie Jones' England when more than 48,000 fans packed the venue.
"To be the best, you have to play the best and that Reds' game against Keps and the Waratahs the week before (June 2) is one of the enjoyable big dates for me," Tupou said.
Tupou has been a major factor behind the Reds' improved 4-5 start to the season because he's acting on Thorn's advice.
"He knows that running the ball is my thing and it comes naturally," said Tupou, who became an Auckland schoolboy star of the internet for his skittling ball-carries.
"I came from school in New Zealand where I used to just run over little white boys.
"But, if you don't have the scrum you can't play prop so I have been learning.
"Thorny said it straight ... 'I want you to focus on being the best tighthead prop in the world' by improving scrummaging, cleaning (out) at the ruck, big D (defence) and the one-per centres."
Something has clicked this season in his mentality.
"Even when I was reviewing my games on tape in my first season (2016) I was saying to myself 'I should have run there' but things have changed," Tupou said.
"Now, at review time, I'm looking at my tech in scrums, whether my form is good in mauls, the stuff that makes you a better prop.
"Get all that right and the running will take care of itself."
The signs have been eye-catching with monster hits, earning forced penalties at the tackle, driving teammates five metres as a Tongan backpack and dominating scrums.
Tupou and Wallabies centre Samu Kerevi got into the Gaelic spirit of the Test season by ravaging the Irish stew and bangers-and-mash at Gilhooleys Irish Pub in Brisbane.
Manager Jade Campbell knows the pub will need extra kegs of Guinness for the fans of the Six Nations champions in June when the Irish chase their first win in Australia since 1979.
■ THE Australian Under-20s face Tonga on Tuesday from 5pm at Bond University on the Gold Coast.
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