London: Soon-to-be Wallaby Taniela Tupou, known to most as the Tongan Thor, has revealed something not many footballers would dare to concede.
He watches videos of himself on YouTube, some of which have racked up 250,000 views, crashing over hapless defenders.
“It comes up on Facebook,” said Tupou with a grin. “Some of my mates will tag me in it and why not. I watch it and see all the comments.
“Sometimes I look at it and I’m like: ‘Maybe I shouldn’t eat that much, that jersey looks tight’.”
As for his nickname, Tupou said it was the media that dubbed him Tongan Thor early in his career, when he was still a schoolboy.
“Four years ago, I came from school and they used to call me the ‘Runaway Rhino’ but then I got here to and in the media I was the Tongan Thor,” Tupou said. “It wasn’t me, it wasn’t my mates, it was the media.”
Tupou was in good spirits during his first interview on British soil after touching down at Heathrow on Monday morning.
He was not included in a initial 32-man Wallabies squad for the spring tour, however. Coach Michael Cheika had made it clear at the time that Tupou would fulfil his duties with Queensland Country in the National Rugby Championship before travelling to the northern hemisphere.
The reason? Next Wednesday, on November 22, Tupou will officially be eligible for after serving a three-year residency requirement set down by World Rugby.
Tupou will be available for selection in ‘s final match of the tour against Scotland and given the number of players Cheika has blooded over the past 18 months, it would not be a surprise to see the highly rated prop there at Murrayfield in a gold jersey.
“I’m happy and blessed to be here, just by the boys,” Tupou said. “Maybe I’ll get to play next week or next year or whenever, but I don’t feel like I feel I should be playing [for the sake of it]. I’m just happy to be here. I’ll work hard and I’ll get my chance to play, hopefully whenever.
“I’m eligible next week, it doesn’t mean nothing. I came here last year and gave it everything. I’ll be doing the same thing this year. If he thinks I’m ready now, if he thinks I’ll be ready in two years’ time, I’ll wait two years.”
There is a strong Tongan flavour within the Wallabies squad. Israel Folau, Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Lopeti Timani have all been on the scene for a while now and Tupou feels comfortable with the crew around him.
“Taf can’t really speak Tongan so much but he tries to,” Tupou joked. “Guys like Sekope I grew up watching him as a little boy in Tonga. Now I get to train with them, learn off them, [it] is something I won’t forget for a long time. Hopefully I get the chance to play with him before he retires.”
There are also Tongan connections in other international teams.
Tupou said he met the England’s Vunipola brothers, Billy and Mako, last year when he was a development player on the spring tour and instantly got on with the pair.
“I got to meet them last year and they are really good people,” Tupou said. “Billy invited me to his house after last year’s game but he couldn’t go too far away.”