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'Tongan Thor' Taniela Tupou thunders on

NEIL REID
Last updated 11:46 18/05/2014
Sky Sport

Sacred Heart College prop Taniela Tupou celebrated his 18th birthday with an impressive first half hat-trick of tries against Kelston Boys' High School.

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Blockbusting teenage rugby star Taniela Tupou is letting his onfield heroics do his talking.

The 18-year-old Sacred Heart College student became a worldwide sensation after footage of his rampaging efforts against rival Auckland side Kelston Boys High School last Saturday went viral.

The clip was played by most of the world's major sporting networks and last night passed 1 million views on YouTube.

Tupou - dubbed the "Tongan Thor" by his school-mates - scored three tries in that game, and smashed his way over the goal line for three more yesterday in Sacred Heart's 22-3 win over Mt Albert Grammar.

Tupou's highlights reel has sparked interest from league and rugby franchises in New Zealand, Australia, France and the UK , and US commentators also suggested he could be ideal for NFL.

Media coverage also included the fact he was ineligible for the NZ schools rugby team, as the Tonga-born teen moved to New Zealand with his family in 2010.

His older brother Criff, who lives in Tasmania, said Tupou's signature was sought by two NRL clubs, including the Warriors, five French rugby clubs, an English side, the Chiefs and the Blues.

Tupou was placed off-limits to media post-match yesterday, but his Sydney- based manager, Daniel O'Loughlin, opened up on the pressures of his overnight fame.

"I would just use one word, overwhelmed," he said.

"And I would like everyone to really think about the fact that he's 18 . . . you imagine what they would be [like], if everyone knows your name in an instant. He is just overwhelmed, but hopefully he has got good support at the school and with us, who can protect him as much as we can."

O'Loughlin, managing director of Komodo Management Group, flew into Auckland on Friday night after the worldwide coverage of his client but was adamant instant fame wouldn't damage the teenager's education.

"We would just like him to focus on school before footy," he said. "If we can get him his NCEA [level] three and get him the option of tertiary education, that would be our prime goal. Then the footy will take care of itself."

When asked if Tupou saw his immediate future in New Zealand, O'Loughlin replied: "100 per cent . . . he's not going anywhere, mate."

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- Sunday Star Times

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