Tuipulotu: From tyro to tour de force in two years

Tuipulotu: From tyro to tour de force in two years

Having entered his third Guinness Six Nations campaign, and having just turned 27, Sione Tuipulotu is firmly established as one of Scotland’s go-to men, the Glasgow Warrior having packed a whole load of international rugby since his debut against Tonga in late 2021.

A Six Nations debut came in dramatic style in 2022, as Scotland retained a Calcutta Cup which has yet to be relinquished. Casting his mind back to that home encounter the centre, who won a 24th cap against France, said: “It feels like ages ago but of course it was only a couple of years.

“That was when SJ [Sam Johnson] was still playing and I Charris [Chris Harris] started as well. It was actually really cool to be involved with those boys because SJ was one who really helped me when I first moved to Glasgow and he’s someone I still look up to now.

“It was nerve-racking to come on but I was just most grateful that Gregor trusted me in that moment because I hadn’t been in Scotland very long. The game was pretty tight and he put me on with 20 minutes to go and we ended up wrestling it back and winning the game.

“It’s still probably my favourite Six Nations game I’ve played in even though last year we went to Twickenham and beat them there, but the first one is always special, and given the opponent it was fun.”

Pictured: Experiencing the Calcutta Cup for the first time, 2022.

The moments leading up to Sione’s introduction to Six Nations rugby are, understandably, etched into his mind: “There was a bit of me, when it got to the 50 or 60-minute mark, I was kind of under the impression that whatever time I get, if I do, I’m just going to go on and try to do the things that I got picked for.

“I remember being on the bike and I was just chilling, really, fully tracksuited up because I didn’t think I’d really get on, and then it was on 59/60 minutes, Beelsy [Kit Manager Mark Beels] said: “Nonz, you’re on”, and so I whipped off the tracksuit and ran on. Finn [Russell] made me feel very comfortable and just told me to be confident out there, be decisive and we were lucky enough to come out on the right side of the result.

“I remember Finn hit that cross-kick and we got the penalty try, so it was good. Always nice to be on the right side of a bit of controversy!”

Pictured: Sione in possession against Georgia at Scottish Gas Murrayfield last year, ably supported by Finn Russell, Kyle Steyn and Huw Jones.

“I feel like from when I started, it’s only been two years but in that time we’ve got a new crop of centres. Other than Shuggy [Huw Jones] I probably have the most caps of the group of us, so I like to think I can lead the centres moving forward and take on that responsibility with pride.

“We’re very talented in that position and there’s a lot of competition but ultimately we all want the same goal, to achieve something.

“Rugby in general, you never know when it’s your time and you want to make the most from these tournaments. I also feel there’s a level of responsibility for the centres we have at the moment towards the centres that have come before, the likes of SJ and Charris, and that’s one of my motivations. These guys have put in the groundwork of what Scotland have been the last three or four years and for me to come in, you want to do them right and keep the progress moving forward.

On the notion that he is now the veteran of Scotland’s centre stable, Sione then quipped: “I don’t know if I’m the vet! Shuggy would be the vet, he’s just turned 30 so we’ll give him that – he still listens to me though, don’t get that wrong!”

It’s tongue-in-cheek, of course, but there’s a fair amount of truth in the concept that Sione Tuipulotu is now one of Scotland’s true leaders.

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