Taniela Tupou is a rare talent.
Taniela Tupou is a rare talent.

Tongan Thor inks new Reds deal

TONGAN Thor has been re-signed on a two-year deal as the essential front-row rock on which a meaningful Reds rally can be built.

The coup comes just a week after coach Brad Thorn lauded Taniela Tupou as "133kg of God-given talent you can't get in the gym."

Tupou was given another nod this week that he's now far more than a project player when 91-Test stalwart Sekope Kepu said he was being pushed all the way to hold onto his jersey.

Tupou signed his first two contracts at the Reds before he'd even played a Super Rugby match such was the measured course mapped out for him from 18.

Hands up who just signed a new deal!
Hands up who just signed a new deal!

Such smart handling started when former Reds coach Richard Graham and his ample fridge gave the shy teenager a family home to stay in when he first arrived from Auckland in 2014.

Now 21, Tupou is repaying the faith by pledging his loyalty for the 2019-20 seasons and the path being mapped by new boss Thorn.

Consistency is everything as a prop and scrummager and South Africa's Bulls will fully test Tupou's rising status at Suncorp Stadium.

The Reds pack put the competition on notice a week ago by destroying the Brumbies scrum with a return of four penalties and two free-kicks.

Thorn's distinctive stamp produced a selection shock yesterday when he demoted 2017 standout Duncan Paia'aua to the bench for a super-sized centre pairing.

By shifting in-form Chris Feauai-Sautia (101kg) from wing to outside centre and Samu Kerevi (108kg) in a slot to No.12, the playmaking skill of Paia'aua has been sacrificed.

Taniela Tupou is a rare talent.
Taniela Tupou is a rare talent.

Kerevi's passing improvements are not as advanced as assistant coach Tony McGahan trumpeted because he still too often seeks contact for a one-handed offload rather than throw a silky, simple pass.

The shuffle means a wing spot has been created for Fijian wing flyer Filipo Daugunu.

"We are looking to see how Chris goes with Samu after a really strong NRC and pre-season and Filipo has been terrific off the bench," McGahan said.

Going without Paia'aua's playmaking and footwork until he enters the game in the second half is a gamble but Feauai-Sautia's form spike has been eye-catching.

"Having two big bodies like Samu and Chris generating good front-foot ball can take some weight off the ball-player," flyhalf Jono Lance said.

Taniela Tupou made his Wallabies debut last year.
Taniela Tupou made his Wallabies debut last year.

McGahan said the Reds were well aware of the extra danger posed by a Bulls' game style that has been remodelled by former All Blacks coach John Mitchell.

"They've added a real dimension to their fitness, their passing and ability to seek space on the edges ... it's like watching a bigger version of a New Zealand side," McGahan said.

Feauai-Sautia's 50-game milestone at Suncorp Stadium can be a memorable one now Thorn and backs coach Paul Carozza have found the elusive key to the enigmatic back.

REDS: Aidan Toua, Filipo Daugunu, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Samu Kerevi, Eto Nabuli, Jono Lance, James Tuttle, Caleb Timu, Liam Wright, Adam Korczyk, Kane Douglas, Izack Rodda, Taniela Tupou, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, James Slipper (c). Res: Alex Mafi, JP Smith, Sef Fa'agase, Harry Hockings, Angus Scott-Young, Tate McDermott, Hamish Stewart, Duncan Paia'aua.