Tupou shocked at interest from Blackadder

JIMMY TUPOU: "It was a bit of a shock that there was some interest from any Super Rugby franchises, actually."
JIMMY TUPOU: "It was a bit of a shock that there was some interest from any Super Rugby franchises, actually."

Jimmy Tupou has heard the rumour it can get a bit brisk in Christchurch during the winter months.

It has been that sort of year for the raw Crusaders loose forward.

A lot of things to do with rugby, whether it be the technical, tactical or geographical aspects, have been a revelation.

A year ago Tupou, who turned 20 in August, was wondering how to blitz the approaching summer with his mates.

Now he has a Super Rugby contract worth around $65,000 and probably hoping he doesn't make a fool of himself when the current All Blacks join the squad for pre-season training at Rugby Park on January 28.

Tupou's first trip to Christchurch was a couple of months ago when the Crusaders paid for his air ticket to visit their set-up.

Coach Todd Blackadder and high performance leader Steve Lancaster met the New Zealand under-20 player at the airport and carted him off to the Crusaders set-up at Rugby Park, got him to shake a few hands and quizzed him on his aspirations.

Tupou still seemed a bit startled with his rapid elevation when wheeled out at the Crusaders' squad naming on Wednesday.

"It was a bit of a shock that there was some interest from any Super Rugby franchises, actually. I was just trying to play well for my province - to get some interest from Toddy was really overwhelming. This is my first year. Everything is quite new to me."

Until Tana Umaga selected him for Counties-Manukau this season, Tupou had never played first-class rugby.

In fact, he had very little do with the 15-man code until his penultimate year at Pukekohe High School.

Up until then it was all rugby league for Tupou - Pukekohe born-and-bred and proud of it - where he played either as a second rower or at centre.

Then came the day his school principal told the 17-year-old he could be useful in rugby.

"Obviously, I had a little bit of height on me and he knew I played rugby league. He pretty much had a talk to me to say give rugby a crack. So, big ups to my principal at Pukekohe High School."

It proved excellent advice. Tupou won his first age-group jersey for the Counties under-18 side and still recalls the day he played Auckland. "That definitely opened up my eyes to cleaning-out and stuff like that.

"That is really technical and I was quite raw, so I learned quite a lot that year."

Tupou flourished under the guidance of Umaga and forwards coach Steve Jackson this year and singled out former All Blacks skipper Umaga for his ability to empathise with his players.

"He just makes everyone feel comfortable, that they can play their game."

The 1.96m Tupou doesn't expect many starts at blindside flanker in 2013 because of the presence of George and Luke Whitelock and acknowledges he is still learning the technical aspects of the sport. He also expects to learn more about Christchurch's winters: "I heard it gets really cold down here."