Reds lock down 'Tongan Thor' until 2020

The Queensland Reds have locked up Taniela Tupou (right) until 2020.
The Queensland Reds have locked up Taniela Tupou (right) until 2020.

James Slipper believes Queensland Reds front-row teammate Taniela Tupou can give Wallabies coach Michael Cheika some major selection headaches in the lead-up to next year's World Cup.

Tupou has signed a fresh two-year contract, ensuring the Reds will retain one of the most exciting prospects in Australian rugby until at least the end of 2020.

The 21-year-old made his Wallabies debut on last year's European tour and many rate him as having the potential to become the best prop in the world.

Slipper said the 'Tongan Thor' had come a long way since landing at Ballymore in 2014, and has added scrummaging nous to his damaging ball-running ability.

"Just looking at his performances this year, he's really grown into that tighthead role," Slipper told reporters on Friday.

"It's the hardest position on the field and he's taken it with both hands at the moment."

Queensland's set-piece dominance laid the platform for last week's win over the Brumbies and if they continue along the same path, Slipper and Tupou will come into starting calculations for Australia's mid-year series against Ireland - and beyond.

Slipper wants his own Test spot back after missing most of last year through injury while Tupou has set his sights on becoming a regular in time for the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

"Any front-row that's going well is obviously good for Australian rugby," Slipper said.

"There's quite a few props running around at the moment, a bit of depth there.

"What it does is gives Cheika options, and that's all you can ask for as a head coach."

The Reds have also signed South African-born Ruan Smith - the twin brother of JP Smith - until 2020.

It comes as they prepare to back up their first win under Brad Thorn against the Bulls on Saturday night at Suncorp Stadium.

The Bulls are best known for their forward play but tend to spread the ball around more these days, with former All Blacks coach John Mitchell driving a tactical revolution at the Pretoria-based side.

Queensland head into the clash with a rejigged backline after Samu Kerevi's shift to inside centre while winger Filipo Dauguno will make his run-on debut.

"It's obviously important to put in another good performance," Slipper said.

"We haven't really put too much pressure on (ourselves) but we all know in the back of our heads that's what we're trying to do."

Australian Associated Press