National Rugby Championship
'Tongan Thor' named in Queensland Country squad
ESPN Staff
August 7, 2015
Taniela Tupou had an impressive debut season for Brothers and has been selected in the Queensland Country NRC side © Image Supplied: Queensland Rugby Union

Taniela Tupou will take his next step on his high-profile rugby journey after he was named in the Queensland Country squad for the 2016 National Rugby Championship. 'Tongan Thor', as he has been dubbed, has been rewarded with the next step towards Super Rugby after an impressive debut season for Brothers in the Brisbane Premier competition.

The prop known for his big hits and strong running added to his highlights collection during the Brisbane Premier Rugby club competition with a rampaging try against Sunnybank, and he is expected to make a strong impression against some of the country's best.

Tongan Thor was quickly snatched up by Queensland Reds after footage of a rampaging hat-trick for Sacred Heart College in Auckland schoolboy competition hit YouTube last year.

Tupou, who weighs 135kg but has the agility and pace of an outside back, has spent this year playing club rugby in Brisbane and he is ready for the next stage, according to Reds senior assistant coach Nick Stiles.

"Moving forward, gee I'm excited about him," Stiles told NZ Newswire. "You can really get sucked into looking at him physically and forgetting he's a 19-year-old kid. You see his raw power, I've just never seen anything like it.

"How he can scrummage now - well, it's not where I want it to be, but still as good as I've seen in a 19-year-old kid. The ability to test that first year of his development in the NRC is going to be a really good tool for him."

The Reds are reluctant to put a timeframe on when Tupou's Super Rugby debut will come, but it's not hard to imagine him being blooded late next season, provided he continues at his current rate of development. Queensland Country coach Jason Gilmore admitted Tupou's powerful running game was well suited to the NRC's rule variations which promote attacking rugby. But he warned he would be judged on the improvement of his set piece.

"He can run the ball all day but he's got to be able to scrum and do his work in the lineout as well," Gilmore said. "His first focus point has to be the set piece and then off the back of that comes his carry and dynamic impact."

Queensland Country squad:

Richie Arnold, Tom Banks, Tyrell Barker, Cameron Bracewell, Fred Burke, AJ Campbell, Jack Cornelson, Sef Fa'agase, Saia Fainga'a, Antohony Fainga'a, Lolo Fakaosilea, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Pierce Fitzgerald, Scott Gale, Sam Greene, Matt Gordon, Elliot Hagen, Haydne Hirsimiki , Greg Holmes, Maclean Jones, Reuban Lealua, Tongan Ma'afu, Alex Mafi, Campbell Magnay, Connor Mitchell, Harry Nucifora, Duncan Paia'aua, Andrew Parker, Izaia Perese, Tom Pincus, Phil Potgieter, Ed Quirk, Radike Samo, Sam Reiser, Milton Sikuea, Rob Simmons, James Slipper, Dion Taumata, Jamie-Jerry Tualagi, Lukham Tui, Taniela Tupoua, James Turner, James Tuttle Stephen Van Der Walt, Campbell Wakely

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