Taniela Tupou of the Reds
Taniela Tupou of the Reds DEAN LEWINS

Tongan Thor to miss opener after suspension

RUGBY UNION: A two-week ban for headbutting has cost Taniela "Tongan Thor" Tupou his spot in the Queensland Reds' opening Super Rugby clash against the Sharks on February 24.

The young prop escaped any censure on the field in the first play of the Global Tens quarter-final against the Chiefs but was later cited for what was judged a red card offence.

Tupou wound up from the kick-off and bullocked straight into Chiefs talisman Liam Messam.

Messam didn't back down with his grapple and the baby-butt at close quarters from Tupou was a needless act that will cost the Reds one of their X-factor players for the big season opener at Suncorp Stadium.

The ban creates an intriguing opportunity to play for Brothers against Sydney club Norths in the Australian Club Championship clash at Crosby Park on February 25, the day his ban ends.

Backrow prospect Adam Korczyk made such a positive comeback at the Global Tens he will bump Wallaby great George Smith from trial time for the Reds in wednesday's clash against the Melbourne Rebels at Ballymore.

Coach Nick Stiles was delighted with his side reaching yesterday's Tens quarter-finals and even more so with the heart to fight with two players in the sin bin when they lost narrowly 12-10 to the final-bound Chiefs.

Stiles knows exactly what he's going to get from recently-arrived flanker Smith in Super Rugby and doubts a trial will add anything after more than 400 top-tier games.

Leaving Smith out of his backrow rotation will enable Stiles to scrutinise more of what the aggressive Korczyk offers after he missed last season with a knee injury.

He is still an unexplored talent, just 21 and with only three Reds cameos to his name in 2015 when his ruck involvements were limited.

Yesterday, he was superb with his energy to fly into the mini-breakdowns of Tens to get position over the ball and pulled off a superb tackle for his undermanned team against the Chiefs.

Tens is a tough enough game played at 10-a-side in a near-40 degree furnace let alone with just eight players because forwards Tupou and Leroy Houston have been yellow carded.

Tupou's indiscretion was a high, jersey sling tackle.

"Outstanding effort to be down to eight players and defend as well as they did," Stiles said.

"I said to the guys in the change room that defence is built on heart and character and the last couple of years we've struggled in defence," Stiles said.

"Hopefully, the guys get a lot from that to take into Super Rugby.

"There is probably no need for George to trial and how well Adam played in the Tens means he deserves another crack."

Karmichael Hunt was eye-catching again with ball-play for tries, a cover tackle with venom and the Stiles' style just seems to click with him.

"The atmosphere around the team in chalk and cheese compared to the last few years, the boys are really enjoying themselves and want to stand up to be counted," Hunt said.

Big guns Quade Cooper and Stephen Moore will be rolled out for the trial.

News Corp Australia


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