Wallaby hero’s ‘dark places’ before World Cup

Wallabies star Taniela Tupou feared he wasn’t new coach Eddie Jones’s “type of player” as he raced to overcome an achilles injury in time for the World Cup and went to some “dark places” before finding his way to France.

Tupou was among the Wallabies’ best in the opening win over Georgia that ended a five-game losing streak under Jones in 2023 and reinforced for the players the plan the coach had was coming together.

A floating pass from the 135kg prop to set up a try for teammate Ben Donaldson was among Tupou’s highlights in the 35-15 win that he said could also calm some of the critics who had written the Australians off.

“We had a game plan and we came out and delivered it. Coming off five losses, we have got to be grateful for the win,” he said.

“It is good to be back in the winner’s circle. We understand why people are upset. Everybody wants to win but with the young team we have, we are trying to put together a winning combination while the players are getting used to each other.”

Tupou played his 50th Test in the clash against Georgia but said it was a milestone he wasn’t sure would come after Jones was appointed while he was recovering from an achilles injury suffered against Ireland last year.

He knew the timeline for recovery was nine months and he questioned whether he would get back in time and if Jones would want him knowing the new coach was set to sweep a broom through the national set-up.

“Last year I was recovering from a calf injury when I ruptured my achilles. I went through some really dark places,” he said.

“They said it would take nine months and I was lucky enough to make it back in seven or eight, but there were times when I thought, ‘Can I still make it back?’

“Then when Eddie came in, I didn’t know much about him so I was nervous about whether I would be his type of player. I am lucky he has shown so much faith in me.”

Tupou played for Australia A and then made his return for the Wallabies against the All Blacks at the MCG, injuring himself again before making his World Cup statement in Paris.

Jones said Tupou could become the best tight-head prop in the world, but Tupou said he was just worried about continuing to work hard, with team success his priority.

“Every coach would say that about you, but I’m not sure how to take these compliments,” he said.

“I hear them from different people, but I just try to keep my head down and keep working hard. Hopefully, I will be up there one day, but there are so many in front of me.”

The Wallabies’ next World Cup clash is against Fiji next Monday.

Originally published as Taniela Tupou reveals he didn’t know if Wallabies coach Eddie Jones wanted him

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