Scottish Daily Mail
WARRIOR TUIPULOTU CAN BE A TOP MAN FOR TOWNSEND’S TEAM
GLASGOW WARRIORS OSPREYS 38 19
THE talents of Sione Tuipulotu continue to propel Glasgow Warriors into the upper echelons of this season’s United Rugby Championship. Whether they might have a similar effect on Scotland in the Six Nations is surely at the forefront of Gregor Townsend’s thoughts ahead of the championship beginning next month. On current form, Tuipulotu is making a compelling case to start in midfield for the Calcutta Cup clash against England at BT Murrayfield on February 5. He’s a wrecking ball with outstanding pace, power and finishing prowess, as demonstrated by his two tries in a man-of-the-match display against Ospreys. But what gives him the advantage over his rivals is the fact he’s equally adept at playing at inside or outside centre. He switched seamlessly between both positions at various stages of the match.
With Chris Harris certain to take the No13 jersey at outside centre, that versatility could give Tuipulotu the edge over Sam Johnson, Huw Jones, Mark Bennett, Matt Scott and a fit-again Cameron Redpath. Tuipulotu made his Scotland debut against Tonga last autumn in a game which saw Glasgow team-mate Kyle Steyn score four tries. Steyn believes Glasgow have the complete package on their hands with Tuipulotu, who is Australian-born but qualifies through a grandmother from Greenock. ‘He had a tough time when he arrived in the summer because he had to isolate,’ said Steyn. ‘He only trained with us for about five or six days after that, then the whole squad got put into isolation. ‘So, basically, he spent about 20 days in isolation during his first month here. ‘But he’s such a great bloke. He’s fitted in seamlessly, is making a great impact and has pretty much got the complete game.’ Glasgow coach Danny Wilson took a similar view in the aftermath of this comprehensive bonus-point victory. ‘He was outstanding tonight, a real handful,’ said Wilson of Tuipulotu. ‘He was involved in some big collisions in defence but also in attack with ball in hand. ‘We all know how good a player he is and he’s now proving it week in, week out. The fact he can play at both 12 and 13 equally well is exciting.’ The success of any head coach will always be at least partly determined by the quality of his signings, and Glasgow’s season has steadily gathered momentum over the past couple of months as some of Wilson’s new recruits have come to the fore. Tuipulotu has been chief among them. So, too, back-rowers Jack Dempsey and Rory Darge. Kiwi full-back Josh McKay is another Wilson signing who is beginning to impress, and he scored one of Glasgow’s five tries on Saturday. That’s four players all brought to the club by Wilson who have quickly established themselves as key performers. Wilson has also blooded talented youngsters such as Ross Thompson and Rufus McLean. Not a bad body of work for a head coach who, at times, must feel like he is fighting a constant battle for approval from Glasgow fans. This victory elevated Glasgow into the top four of the URC table, leapfrogging an
Ospreys side who had started the night above them. Tuipulotu was the standout, his raw power and pace far too much for the Welsh side to handle. The other tries were scored by full-back McKay, Cole Forbes and Fraser Brown as he made his return from a knee injury. Next on the agenda is a trip to Sandy Park next weekend to face Exeter Chiefs in the Heineken Champions Cup. After Glasgow dismantled the Chiefs 22-7 at Scotstoun last month, Steyn is wary of an Exeter revenge mission. ‘We know we can do it, but that game is in the past now,’ he said. ‘They will be hungry to put things right. ‘For us, it’s just about taking the belief out of the previous game. But we have to work really hard to get a result down there. That’s two positive results back to back for us. It feels like we’re heading in the right direction.’