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How Taniela Tupou nearly walked away from Rugby during brutal rehab process



Wallabies prop Taniela Tupou has revealed how he nearly walked away from the game during his extensive rehab process.

Tupou is in line to complete his return from an Achilles injury during Saturday’s first Bledisloe Test against the All Blacks at the MCG.

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However, the road to return for the damaging prop has been far from easy, opening up on it in an open and wide-ranging chat with reporters.

Tupou ruptured his Achilles during November’s 13-10 defeat to Ireland in an innocuous incident, carrying the ball and collapsing in a heap.

It came just six months after a long-term calf injury disrupted his 2022 campaign.

The 27-year-old was left in a state of uncertainty.

He was out of contract, dealing with his dream of a second World Cup potentially over, and a near year-long recovery timeline.

With Achilles injuries, much is made about the physical return to injury. Players go through milestones such as the return to walking and running and then they start getting into the game-specific drills such as scrummaging.

For Tupou, it was the mental side of his process that weighed heavily.

“It has been tough the last eight to nine months to do all the rehab alone. Looking back on it, it wasn’t easy. There was a time when I really thought about my future in footy,” Tupou revealed.

“It was just mentally hard. I was asking for help and I was speaking to a few people, I needed that. But I’m we’re here now and I couldn’t be any happier, just be around people again and the boys and now it’s fine.”

Tupou can do it all on the field; a generational athlete that defies physics with his pace and ball skills for a 135kg prop.

However, the mental anvil burdening the jovial front-rower forced him to learn a new skill: speaking up.

It led to Tupou reaching out to the Wallabies psychologists and before he knew it, there was an army of players, coaches and experts reaching out to make sure he was ok every step of the journey.

“Before I was one of those guys where speaking up was not an option,” he explained

“So to find out you are not weak for speaking up, I had to learn the new skill of speaking up when I needed to.

“…I didn’t know who to talk to but we’re lucky enough to have the psychologists for the Wallabies so I reach out to him and he makes everything easy for me and I’m very comfortable talking to him.

“I ended up talking to a few other people comfortably enough to speak to the boys. Before I knew not there were a lot of the boys speaking up on me because we have a lot of people here that care about me and that’s why I’m so grateful now.

“When I did my Achilles last year, I thought the worst. Also the last year of my contract, I thought I was going to miss World Cup. I was in a very dark place but hey we’re here now.”

It transformed Tupou’s perception of his recovery and he could start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

What he probably didn’t envision was a detour to his country of birth following the confirmation of an Australia A tour of Tonga.

The game coincided with the 50th anniversary of Tonga beating Australia at Ballymore and presented a ‘full-circle’ moment for ‘The Tongan Thor’, badgering coach Eddie Jones to play.

Tupou’s voice almost quivers when speaking about what it meant to play in his country of birth. It’s tough to tell how much of it that is still remnants of the flu he picked up over there but what is clear is what the opportunity meant to him.

“These games never happen in Tonga. You see these games happen in Fiji or Samoa but you’ve never heard of a game in Tonga,” Tupou said.

“For someone like myself growing up in Tonga and playing in that stadium when I was at school, to have that opportunity to perform and play in front of my family in that stadium, it’s a full circle to where everything started for me.

“It was by far the highlight of my career.

“I get a bit emotional talking about it because it means so much to me.”

After all the support he received during his process, Tupou is itching to repay it on the field.

He has spoken in the past about feeling like he has not lived up to his Wallabies potential but Tupou has a new-found motivation after the journey he has been through.

“I’m known for being very loud and trying to be the funny joker in the team but no one sees you when you go through the dark moment,” Tupou added.

“If I ever get the chance to play again, I want to put a performance together that those guys are proud of and I’m proud of.

“I didn’t just get here on my own, there’s a lot of people that got me here so I want to thank them for getting me here with a performance they’d be proud of.”

Content & Images from – Melbourne Rebels Rugby

Super Rugby

Brad Shields named 2024 Hurricanes Captain



Brad Shields named 2024 Hurricanes Captain

Experienced loose-forward and Hurricanes centurion Brad Shields has today been confirmed as captain of the Hurricanes ahead of their 2024 DHL Super Rugby Pacific campaign.

He will be supported by Asafo Aumua and Jordie Barrett, who have been named as vice-captains for 2024.

Shields, who played 103 games for the Hurricanes between 2012 and 2018, before heading offshore to pursue a test career with England, signed with the Hurricanes last year, eyeing a return for this season.

He takes over the reins from 2023 captain Ardie Savea who departed for Japan this season.

The captain’s tag is a title the 32-year-old is not unfamiliar with, having led the Hurricanes in their 31-all draw against the British and Irish Lions in 2017, and then taking on the role for the entire 2018 season.

Shields said he is honoured to be given the captain’s armband for 2024, but it is a role he will lean on many of his experienced teammates for support.

“I’m hugely excited and honoured to be leading the Hurricanes this season,” said Shields.

“I admit, after Clarky (Clark Laidlaw) told me I was really stoked, but I did feel a little apprehensive given I had been away for a few years and the quality of leadership we have at the Hurricanes. But at the end of the day, it’s a massive challenge and opportunity I’m excited for, and what makes it more exciting is there is a handful of guys here with so much experience who I know I will turn to for support. We’ll all work together with this one.”

Hurricane #184 said he intends to lead by his actions this season which he hopes will bring out the best out of a young Hurricanes team, and Hurricanes fans.

“Actions. Always by actions is how I like to lead,” said Shields.

“I really want to challenge our environment because challenge always brings better performances. We’ve got a really young team this season so anywhere I can help and encourage and bring the best out of some of the young guys, and the players who have been here for a while, is what I aim for.

“The one thing that’s massive for us at the Hurricanes is connection within our community. Ultimately, we’ve got to play good rugby and perform really well if we want bums on seats, but it certainly means a lot to know we’ve got our community behind us, and we’ll do everything we can to give them a good service and make 2024 an exciting and enjoyable season to watch.”

Having an abundance of experienced leaders in this Hurricanes side didn’t make the captaincy decision an easy one for Hurricanes Head Coach Clark Laidlaw.

However, Laidlaw said he and the other coaches were impressed with Shields’ attitude the moment he stepped back into camp and became an obvious choice as the right man to lead the side.

“The coaches and I do a lot of observing around leadership of the team, and it became reasonably apparent that we have several players that want to lead which is really exciting,” said Laidlaw.  

“But with Brad, he leads really well every day. He’s a great role model around how we want to train; he’s competitive as hell; he’s won Super Rugby; he’s a test match player; he’s bigger and stronger than he’s been before; and he knows what it takes to win and to lead. So, at the end of the day, he became an obvious choice.

“One of the best things about Brad is that he wants to be better. That’s an important trait to have as a leader as it rubs off on everyone else. We as coaches want our captain to represent what we want the team to look like. And we felt with Brad’s experience and his maturity, he’s the right man to lead us forward for this season.”

Laidlaw also echoed Shields’ comments on looking to his teammates for support this season.

“Brad will lead the side, but we do have a number of other players with Asafo and Jordie, who are going to be vice-captains of the team, and our leadership group will support Brad and help the coaches this season.”


Content & Images from – Hurricanes Rugby

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Super Rugby

Waratahs Squad announced for 2024 Super Rugby Season



The NSW Waratahs confirmed its initial 34-player squad for the 2024 Harvey Norman Super Rugby Pacific season with a couple more spots to be decided in pre-season.

Props: Angus Bell, Archer Holtz, Daniel Botha, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Hayden Thompson-Stringer, Tom Lambert, Tom Ross

Hookers: Dave Porecki, Mahe Vaianu, Theo Fourie

Locks: Hugh Sinclair, Jed Holloway, Miles Amatosero, Ned Hanigan

Loose forwards: Charlie Gamble, Fergus Lee-Warner, Lachlan Swinton, Langi Gleeson, Ned Slack-Smith

Halfbacks: Jack Grant, Jake Gordon, Teddy Wilson

Flyhalves: Jack Bowen, Tane Edmed, Will Harrison

Centres: Izaia Perese, Joey Walton, Lalakai Foketi, Mosese Tuipulotu

Outside backs: Dylan Pietsch, Harry Wilson, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Max Jorgensen, Vuate Karawalevu

New signings and re-signings

For all new signings and re-signing, you can follow our 2024 Waratahs Contract tracker.

Content & Images from – Waratahs Rugby

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Super Rugby

Highlanders 2024 Squad Announcement




The Highlanders will usher into the fold a swag of new players for the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific competition.

Some have already made brief appearances last season such as halfback Nathan Hastie, loose forward Oliver Haig, hooker Jack Taylor and midfielders Jake Te Hiwi and Matt Whaanga. Several players have come through the John Jones Steel Highlander’s High Performance Programme such as first-five, Ajay Faleafaga, and loose forward Hayden Michaels.

Also new to the team, and adding depth to the outside back stocks, are the arrival of blockbusting winger and former Moana Pasifika star, Timoci Tavatavanawai, and Blues’ speedster Jacob Ratumaituvuki-Kneepkens. Argentinian winger, Martín Bogado, fresh from the 2023 World Cup, will return to further his Super Rugby experience in New Zealand.

Another former Blues player will add strength to the midfield in the form of Tanielu Tele’a who will be looking to get his career back on track after being hampered by injury in recent seasons.

Former Welsh international, Rhys Patchell, will bring his vital experience to the first-five role which will be good news for young pivots Cameron Millar and Ajay Faleafaga.

All Black, Ethan De Groot, will be joined in the forward pack by veteran loose forward and former Crusader Tom Sanders.

Highlanders’ Head Coach, Clarke Dermody, is looking forward to the preseason and the opportunity to work with his players.

“We have had a few changes in our squad and our coaching group so it will be great to get everyone together and start building some cohesion through the preseason. We will just about have our whole squad together from day one, which is a nice opportunity for us.”

“I am also pleased to see some of the younger players that we have invested in over the last few years start to come through to Super Rugby level. I am sure their individual enthusiasm will be infectious for the squad. 

The team assembles on Thursday 23 November 2023.



Backs:  James Arscott (Otago), Connor Garden-Bachop (Wellington), Martín Bogado (Argentina), Folau Fakatava (Hawkes Bay), Ajay Faleafaga (Otago), Sam Gilbert (Otago), Nathan Hastie (Otago), Jacob Ratumaituvuki-Kneepkens (Taranaki), Jonah Lowe (Hawkes Bay), Cameron Millar (Otago), Jona Nareki (Otago), Rhys Patchell (Wales), Jake Te Hiwi (Otago), Timoci Tavatavanawai (Tasman), Tanielu Tele’a (Auckland), Josh Timu (Otago), Matt Whaanga (Southland)

Forwards: Jermaine Ainsley (Otago), Henry Bell (Otago), Nikora Broughton (Bay of Plenty), Daniel Lienert-Brown (Canterbury), Mitchell Dunshea (Canterbury), Ethan De Groot (Southland), Oliver Haig (Otago), Billy Harmon (Canterbury) , Max Hicks (Tasman), Fabian Holland (Otago), Luca Inch (Tasman), Ricky Jackson (Otago), Ayden Johnstone (Waikato), Saula Ma’u (Otago), Hayden Michaels (Southland), Pari Pari Parkinson (Tasman), Hugh Renton (Tasman), Tom Sanders (Otago) , Jack Taylor (Southland), Will Tucker (Otago), Sean Withy (Otago)




Content & Images from – Highlanders Rugby

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