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Rennie confident as Tupou decision looms

By Murray Wenzel
Dave Rennie is confident Taniela Tupou will stay in Australian rugby despite overseas interest. (AAP)

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has confirmed a Japanese sabbatical has been discussed for Taniela Tupou as the in-demand prop weighs up his rugby future.

The Queensland Reds star, carrying a calf injury that will keep him out of action until July's home Tests against England, has a four-year Rugby Australia contract that expires at the end of next year.

Foreign clubs are queuing for the services of the 25-year-old, who has silky hands to go with fast feet that belie his wrecking-ball frame.

But Rugby Australia want that, as well as his off-field charm and commercial pulling power, as the face of their own brand ahead of a 2027 World Cup in Australia where a 30-year-old Tupou could star.

Tupou and RA are open to a one-year sabbatical, similar to that taken by Wallabies captain Michael Hooper at Japanese Top League club Toyota Verblitz last year.

That would see Tupou collect his full market value while remaining eligible for Test selection and then returning to an Australian franchise ahead of the 2027 showpiece, rather then being lost altogether to a rich, long-term European deal.

"That's one way of competing with overseas dollars," Rennie told AAP.

"We're looking at all options that's going to make it attractive and affordable."

"We're pretty positive about being able to keep Nella; he wants to stay, we're in discussions with his agent and it's been very positive.

"He's got a genuine point of difference (on and off the field), doesn't he, and he loves it, enjoys the interaction with fans.

"He's important to the future of the game here."

Tupou said only a "miracle" would see him return from injury in time for the Reds' Super Rugby Pacific finals campaign and was again coy when asked what the future held beyond next season.

"Who knows what I'll do after next year; whether it's Queensland or ... Rockhampton," he said before bursting into laughter.

"I have to make the decision in the next few months, whether I'll stay here in the long run in Australia or go somewhere.

"I've been speaking to Rugby Australia, they're keen to have me around for the next few years.

"I'd love to go (to Japan) ... I'd like a break from Super Rugby so if that means Japan, rest the body and come back (that'd be good), but it's up to my manager."

As for the 2027 World Cup?

"I feel like I'm 30 now, but yeah I'll be 30 around then, hopefully still playing good footy and Dave picks me," he said.

"I'd love to play a World Cup game at Suncorp ... I know the feeling of playing in front of a full house there, you can't explain it, it's awesome."

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