Tongan Thor inks monster Wallabies deal
Taniela Tupou's clout in the suddenly brighter future for the Wallabies has been locked in on a four-year deal that will earn him close to $3 million.
"Tongan Thor" will be part of planning through to the 2023 World Cup in France under an arrangement that will make him one of the highest paid Wallabies.
It is an extraordinary measure of what must still be called "potential" because the prop's strong role off the bench in the exhilarating win over the All Blacks in Perth was just his 14th Test.
Reds coach Brad Thorn lauds Tupou as "130kg of God-given talent you can't get in the gym" and his broad back will continue to carry revival hopes for Queensland.
Tupou is still just 23 but he's come a long way since the Reds so carefully mapped out his start, at 18, with an open license to gorge from the fridge of then-coach Richard Graham.
He was a shy teenage lodger at Graham's own home when he first arrived from Auckland in 2014 and his scrum education began.
Speculation that Tupou was seeking a long-term contract has been rife since May and he agreed to it some time ago.
He was already on contract for next year so this extension rolls into Rugby Australia's wise new direction to secure bedrock players on long-term deals.
Fellow prop Allan Alaalatoa was immense in last Saturday night's 47-26 smashing of the All Blacks.
He is already on a deal until 2023 while Scott Sio has been secured to the end of 2022 which means Australia's best props are all walled off from the clutches of France and Japan.
The Reds will have done a cartwheel over their signing of James O'Connor and a possible ticket sales spike for 2020 now he has shown his skill for the Wallabies.
It wasn't the complicated things that made O'Connor look so classy against the All Blacks from outside centre but the basics.
He beautifully held the defence at arm's length before a superb one-handed pass to put Reece Hodge over for the opening try.
Just as good was passing early so Hodge could score his second.
You can gnash your teeth that centre partner Samu Kerevi bombed another try by not passing early but celebrate what he does as well as any centre in the world.
He ran 17 times for 132m and he was a bulldozer with a No.12 number plate when he smashed through Aaron Smith and Beauden Barrett to set up the Nic White try.
Coach Michael Cheika and co-selectors Scott Johnson and Michael O'Connor deserve enormous credit for savvy selections.
O'Connor, as another playmaker in the wide channels, building the partnership in the backrow for a third straight Test, getting White back from English club Exeter and letting Kurtley Beale roam unpredictably from fullback all paid off.
New backs coach Shaun Berne has play being ignited off halfbacks White and Will Genia as well as flyhalf Christian Lealiifano, who has created a calmness too.
As importantly, beating the All Blacks before the World Cup is the confidence tonic they can beat any nation when the tournament starts next month.
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