Dave Rennie discusses Tupou’s Rugby Australia contract and sabbatical in Japan

Taniela Tupou has made it clear he wants to take a break from the Reds to play in Japan and Rugby Australia appear set to award him a rare sabbatical in a bid to keep him invested through to the 2027 World Cup on home soil.

Tupou was involved in a Rugby Australia media conference to celebrate the hosting rights of the RWC on Friday, and was non-committal on whether he would still be in the Australian frame in five years, when he would be 30 years old.

Of course he has more pressing matters to deal with than a tournament five years in the distance with clubs around the world trying to lure him away.

There are fears that Tupou, whose contract with the Reds and RA expires after next year’s World Cup, could be lost overseas on a mega deal, but RA are hopeful some leeway, such as that given to Michael Hooper and David Pocock in the past, might persuade him against signing a long-term contract elsewhere.

“I think I have to make a decision in the next few months,” Tupou said when asked about his future.

“Whether I’ll stay here in the long run with Australia or go somewhere, I’m not sure. Australia are keen to have me around for the next few years so we haven’t signed anything but hopefully there’s something.

“I’d love to have a little break from Super Rugby. If that means I’ll go to Japan or something, rest the body and come back, it’s up to my manager and Dave Rennie and all those guys to decide what’s the best deal for me.”

He said he was unsure what would be involved in a sabbatical but he expects he would come back feeling more refreshed than he does through the Super Rugby grind which he has been part of since 2014 .

But it’s clear the decision is weighing on his mind, even if he could find time for a joke.

“Who knows what I’ll do after next year; whether it’s Queensland or … Rockhampton,” he said, laughing.

The star prop is currently missing with a calf injury and says it would take a “miracle” for him to return for the finals. More likely, he’ll be getting back to fitness just before the visit of England.

Tupou was watched by Rennie as he spoke on Friday, and the Wallabies coach later expressed confidence that RA could retain his key man, confirming talks with Tupou’s agent have included discussions about a season abroad within the structure of a new contract.

“We are keen to keep Taniela. He’s keen to stay and we’ve had really positive talks with his representatives,” Rennie said. 

“All those things are on the table around sabbaticals. In the end, it’s hard to compete with the money out of Japan so working in with that can make it attractive and affordable. 

“He’s a helluva player with a genuine point of difference. We all love him and want him to stay so obviously we are looking to extend (his contract) beyond 2023.”

Meanwhile the Reds are in Auckland without him, trying to arrest a decline in his absence of three straight losses.

It’s a homecoming for Reds and Wallabies centre Hunter Paisami who went to school in Auckland and played with and against several of Saturday’s opponents.

It also gives the youngster a match up that could be replicated in the Bledisloe Cup later this year, with him pitted against code hopper and All Blacks aspirant Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.

“Growing up watching Roger at league , he’s a freak. I know how good of a player he is and I look forward to the challenge ahead tomorrow.”

Paisami is returning from a shoulder injury. “Hopefully it works tomorrow, but it should be good to go,” he said.

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