Taniela Tupou has signed a four-year contract extension with Rugby Australia and the Reds.

The Tonga-born prop agreed a deal to remain with the Queensland Super Rugby franchise and continue to be available for the Wallabies until after the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.

Tupou has won 13 caps for Australia since making his debut against Scotland in 2017, having made a big impact with the Reds after joining them straight from high school five years ago.

The 23-year-old said: "I'm very excited to sign for the next few years. Queensland and Australia offered me the first opportunity out of school and I feel I have more to do to repay that faith.

"I only started playing consistently in the last two or three years, so I think there's still more for me to offer in Australia for the Reds and Wallabies.

"We have a really good young group in Queensland who have been working hard the last few years and I know we're heading in the right direction.

"I love playing for Australia. Obviously growing up as a kid, watching them, and now being able to pull on the jersey is an honour. To know that I will be here for the next four years is exciting because it means I may have the opportunity to pull on the jersey again if I continue to work hard."

Reds head coach Brad Thorn said: "It's good to see Taniela Tupou re-commit to Queensland.

"To have him here at Ballymore for the next four years is a great result. He's come through the system with the Queensland U20s and is only four caps away now from playing 50 games for Queensland.

"Taniela's developed a lot since he arrived at Ballymore as an 18-year-old. He's a threat to any opposition. He's a strong ball runner and is even tougher in defence. With more hard work he can only better."

The outstanding Handre Pollard racked up a 31-point haul as ruthless South Africa hammered Argentina 46-13 in the Salta sun to win the Rugby Championship for the first time in a decade.

South Africa knew a victory in the final match of the tournament at Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena would deny Australia the title after the Wallabies had thrashed defending champions New Zealand 47-26 earlier on Saturday.

Pollard grabbed a try in each half and booted 21 points as the Springboks got the job done six weeks before they start their bid for Rugby World Cup glory with a blockbuster clash against the All Blacks in Yokohama.

Mbongeni Mbonambi also touched down after Santiago Cordero opened the scoring with an early try, which proved to be a false dawn for the Pumas.

Further scores from Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe rubbed salt into the wounds, South Africa running away with it to take the title for a fourth time in style.

Nicolas Sanchez scored two penalties in what was a tight contest for much of the first half, but the ill-disciplined Pumas were scoreless after the break and finished bottom of the table without a win to their name.

Michael Cheika was "pumped" after Australia crushed New Zealand in the Bledisloe Cup opener but warned: "All we’ve done is bought a ticket to Auckland."

The Wallabies have not lifted the Bledisloe Cup for 17 years, but they have a great opportunity to end that drought after thrashing their trans-Tasman rivals 47-26 in Perth on Saturday.

Reece Hodge scored two of Australia's six tries and Scott Barrett was sent off on the stroke of half-time after being deemed to have shoulder-charged Michael Hooper in an emphatic win at Optus Stadium.

Head coach Cheika challenged his players to pull off a repeat when they do battle with the world champions at Eden Park next Saturday.

Cheika said: "Pride is something I always have in these players. It was some game because there was plenty of action.

"When you get that atmosphere brewing it makes you want to do better and play better. A few things went our way but I was really pleased for the lads, they have been working hard. It's a nice little reward for them."

He added: "I know we're all pumped but at the end of the day all we've done is bought a ticket to Auckland, that's it.

"Great atmosphere and great for the players to get the win but in the bigger scheme of things we've got a ticket to go there and take the opportunity we're going to get given there."

Cheika knows facing Steve Hansen's side without home advantage will be a very different proposition.

"We're trying to work out how we can get around obstacles in games and not lose our way there when obstacles occur. We got through a few tonight and there will be a few presented to us next week as well.

"We won't have this big Perth crowd behind us but we'll go with the fact there is a lot of camaraderie in the team. We'll do our absolute best to get it done."

Kieran Read says New Zealand have no concerns that they could be knocked off the top of the rankings this weekend ahead of a blockbuster showdown with Australia.

The All Blacks head into the Bledisloe Cup clash in Perth on Saturday knowing a defeat at Optus Stadium will open the door for Wales to become the top-ranked side in the world.

A win for the Six Nations champions over England on Sunday and a loss for Steve Hansen's side would take Warren Gatland's men to number one.

Captain Read stated that the world champions have not given any thought to the possibility they could be knocked off the top as they prepare for another battle with their fierce trans-Tasman rivals.

The back-row said: "It's not even part of our equation really, to be honest.

"We turn up here to win the game. We'll try and do that again tomorrow. We know it won’t be easy and it never is over here. We’ll put in our best performance."

New Zealand have won 10 of their last 11 Tests against the Wallabies but Read is expecting a big challenge.

"They’ve definitely had the fire in their bellies the last few years." he added.

"We know they will certainly have that again tomorrow night, so we can't just rest on what we've done over those years. It's important we reset and make sure we play as well as we can.

"These games you can't rely on your skills. It's about your mental fortitude and how you turn up and how you want to be physical. It's going to be important for us how we do that tomorrow."

New Zealand will be expected to continue their dominance of Australia and Argentina are eyeing back-to-back wins over South Africa in the final round of the Rugby Championship.

The All Blacks' hopes of pulling off a clean sweep in the tournament were ended when they were last month held to a 16-16 draw by South Africa, who are a win away from clinching the title.

New Zealand have won 10 of their last 11 Tests against the Wallabies heading into the Bledisloe Cup showdown in Perth on Saturday.

Argentina entertain the Springboks in Salta on the same day after losing 16-10 against Michael Cheika's men in round two.

Take a look at the pick of the Opta stats ahead of round three.

 

Australia v New Zealand 

- New Zealand have won their last six Rugby Championship games against Australia on the bounce, despite having trailed at half-time in two of the last three encounters.

- This will be the first rugby Test played at Optus Stadium. The Wallabies are undefeated in their last six games played in Western Australia.

- New Zealand have won 11 of their last 12 Tests away from home. The only loss in that span came against Ireland in Dublin last November.

- Cheika's side Australia are chasing back-to-back wins in the competition for the first time since 2016, when they defeated South Africa 23-17 and Argentina 36-20.

- World champions New Zealand have failed to score more than two tries in four of their last five Test matches, this after a run of 12 consecutive matches in which they scored four or more times.

- Australia have the best line-out success rate (89 per cent) of any team in this year's Rugby Championship 2019, nine percentage points higher than the All Blacks, who have the lowest rate.

 

Argentina v South Africa

- The Pumas will be on the hunt for consecutive wins against South Africa for the first time after a 32-19 win in their last encounter.

- Two of the previous three games between Argentina and South Africa at Estadio Ernesto Maltearena have been decided by a margin of just two points.

- South Africa's past seven Tests on the road have all been decided by a single-figure margin; the Springboks' results have been evenly split during that run, winning three, losing three and drawing once.

- Argentina have conceded 14 penalties in the tournament, the fewest of any team.

- South Africa have scored the most tries in this year's Rugby Championship, their tally of six being twice as many as any other side.

- Herschel Jantjies is the only player to have scored multiple tries (three) in the opening two rounds, the scrum-half has made just seven carries.

Australia head coach Michael Cheika has brushed off Steve Hansen's "Mickey Mouse" jibe ahead of the Bledisloe Cup opener in Perth on Saturday.

New Zealand head coach Hansen labelled Cheika as the cartoon character during a fundraising event in Wellington in February.

Hansen was reacting to a statement brought up by former Australia player Mark Ella, who stated: "Mickey Mouse could coach the All Blacks to victory."

The wily Hansen quipped: "They've got Mickey Mouse coaching Aussie", but Cheika shrugged off the comment when asked about it two days before the trans-Tasman rivals do battle at Optus Stadium.

"Oh mate, is that even a question?" Cheika said when asked about Hansen's words.

"No drama for me."

He added: "There is certain things in footy that you... respect is an important thing in footy.

"It's the nature of the game, you rip into each other and then you socialise after."

Hansen said too much has been made of what he said six months ago.

"I never said he was Mickey Mouse. What I said was in a throwaway line, or something said in jest after an interviewer said to me Mark Ella thinks Mickey Mouse could coach the All Blacks because they have got so much talent," the 60-year-old stated on Thursday.

"And I just said, 'Well he can't because he's in Australia, coaching Australia'. So you can make a big thing out of it if you want, or you can take it for what it was. Something in jest.

"I have got plenty of respect for what Michael has done. End of story, really."

New Zealand may have beaten Argentina by just four points last week but they head into the second round of the Rugby Championship as favourites to see off South Africa.

The Springboks won on their previous visit, although history is very much against them when it comes to away Tests against the All Blacks, with the 57-0 demolition of two years ago still fresh in their minds.

Australia could not handle Rassie Erasmus' men last week but will hope for more success against an Argentina side who have won just two of their past 15 Tests on their travels.

In fact, the Pumas will be bidding to win for only the second time on Australian soil since 1983.

Take a look at the pick of the Opta numbers ahead of round two...

 

Australia v Argentina

- Australia have won 16 of their most recent 18 games against Argentina, including a 45-34 win in their last encounter – the highest total score ever between the two nations.

- The Pumas have only beaten Australia once away from home since 1983 - a 23-19 win in Queensland last September.

- Argentina are on a losing streak of six games, including their past three matches on the road.

- Australia conceded 291 metres in round one, the fewest of any of the four teams and 183 metres lower than their game average from 2018.

- Jeronimo de la Fuente was the only player to make more than 10 carries and 10 tackles in round one (11 carries, 12 tackles).

New Zealand v South Africa

- New Zealand have won 12 of the past 14 Tests against South Africa - including a 32-30 victory last time out - and 22 of their most recent 25 against all opposition.

- The Springboks claimed a 36-34 win on their previous visit to New Zealand and will be hoping for back-to-back wins there for only the third time in their history, after 1937 and 2008-09.

- They have won three of their past four Tests but only triumphed twice in their most recent 12 away Rugby Championship matches.

- The All Blacks are just six points shy of becoming the first team in Test rugby history to reach 16,000 points. No other team has even gone beyond 14,000.

- Ngani Laumape gained 7.2 metres per carry in round one of this year's tournament, the most of any player to make at least 10 carries.

Steve Hansen says beating South Africa on Saturday would be a tonic for New Zealand but he does not anticipate the outcome having any bearing on their Rugby World Cup showdown in September.

The All Blacks started the defence of their Rugby Championship title with a narrow victory over Argentina last weekend, while the Springboks were too good for Australia.

Both victories were secured with understrength sides but rested players are set to return for a showdown at Westpac Stadium, where South Africa triumphed 36-34 in last year's competition.

New Zealand head coach Hansen is relishing the encounter in Wellington but says it will not have an impact on their World Cup Pool B blockbuster in Yokohama on September 21.

"The tradition is really important. We enjoy their company, we think a lot of them, we respect them very much," said Hansen. 

"We love the way they play and we love the challenge they bring to us. From that point of view, it is a really important encounter. It's the next one so it's obviously really, really important.

"In the big scheme of this year does the result matter? I guess it gives whoever wins it a little bit of confidence going into the World Cup. It won't mean whoever wins this one will automatically win the one in the World Cup.

"Even then whoever wins that game doesn't mean the other team is knocked out of the World Cup either because it is the round-robin stage and you'd expect both teams to go through and qualify.

"In the big scheme it gives everybody an opportunity to have a look at each other and feel each other out but I don't think it's going to affect the World Cup."

New Zealand will be expected to continue their dominance of Argentina and the Rugby Championship when the tournament gets under way on Saturday.

The All Blacks have won the trophy in each of the last three years and are favourites to retain it with the Rugby World Cup fast approaching.

Argentina have never beaten the world champions in 32 attempts and will have to produce something special to make history in Buenos Aires this weekend.

South Africa host Australia at Emirates Airline Park, and the Springboks have won nine of their previous 10 encounters with the Wallabies at the Johannesburg venue.

Take a look at the Opta numbers ahead of Saturday's opening round of matches.

 

South Africa v Australia

- South Africa have lost only one of their last five Tests against Australia, although two of those meetings ended as draws.

- The Springboks have won 13 of their last 16 games played at Emirates Airline Park, including their last three on the bounce, scoring an average of 36 points per match.

- Australia will be looking to secure back-to-back Rugby Championship wins for the first time since 2016 after ending their 2018 campaign with a 45-34 success over Argentina.

- The Wallabies' win rate of 24 per cent when playing in South Africa is their lowest in any nation. Indeed, it is the lowest win rate of any of the six nations to have played more than 20 Tests there.

- Australia back Dane Haylett-Petty gained 397 metres in the 2018 Rugby Championship, the most of any player and 130 more than South Africa's best, Siya Kolisi (267).

 

Argentina v New Zealand

- Argentina’s only positive result against New Zealand came in a 21-21 draw in November 1985. Since that match in Buenos Aires they have lost all 10 home games against the All Blacks.

- New Zealand are on the cusp of their 450th win – 43 more than any other team – and require just 26 points this weekend to become the first nation to score 16,000 international points.

- The All Blacks have won 15 of their last 17 games, including a 66-3 victory against Italy in Rome in their most recent fixture.

- Argentina full-back Nicolas Sanchez scored the most points (67) of any player in the competition last year. He scored four tries, 16 of 17 conversions, four of seven penalty attempts and a drop goal.

- Argentina have lost their last four games played at Velez Sarsfield, including defeats to New Zealand in their last two games at the venue.

Just two months before the Rugby World Cup starts in Japan, this year's Rugby Championship will give opportunities for players desperate to board the plane to Japan.

While Beauden Barrett, Michael Hooper, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Nicolas Sanchez are nailed on to feature on the biggest stage for their respective nations, fitness permitting of course, there are some who are playing for a place in the squad.

New Zealand prepare to start the defence of their title against Argentina in Buenos Aires on Saturday, while South Africa and Australia do battle at Ellis Park on the same day.

Here we have picked out those who will be determined to grasp their opportunities in a shortened tournament in 2019.

 

SEVU REECE, NEW ZEALAND

Reece was one of four uncapped players named in the All Blacks squad for the opening two rounds.

The 22-year-old wing was the leading try scorer in Super Rugby, lighting up the competition as the Crusaders retained their title.

Fiji-born flyer Reece has the pace, power and skill to deliver on the international stage and an impressive Rugby Championship can book him a ticket to the World Cup.

Reece was supposed to join Connacht and looked set to play for Fiji, but after being granted a discharge without conviction over a domestic assault last year, he has experienced a rapid rise.

 

HARRY JOHNSON-HOLMES, AUSTRALIA

Johnson-Holmes was flown over to Johannesburg to link up with an injury-hit Australia squad for their encounter with the Springboks.

The 22-year-old Waratahs prop is poised to come off the bench for what is sure to be a fierce battle this weekend.

With Tom Robertson (ankle) and Scott Sio (adductor) missing out, Johnson-Holmes has been summoned from the fringes.

James Slipper got the nod to start in what will be his first international appearance since 2016 and he will be eager to make up for lost time, but Johnson-Holmes is vying for a World Cup call.

 

HERSCHEL JANTJIES, SOUTH AFRICA

Herschel Jantjies and Rynhardt Elstadt will make their South Africa bows against Michael Cheika's men.

Elton Jantjies and namesake Herschel will form a half-back pairing for the first time on the Test stage.

Springbok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick says scrum-half Herschel has the potential for greatness and he will get the opportunity to live up to the hype.

While Faf de Klerk and Cobus Reinach are ahead of the 23-year-old in the pecking order, but there is still time to show he merits a spot after an excellent Super Rugby season for the Stormers.

 

LUCAS MENSA, ARGENTINA 

Livewire Lucas Mensa is a potential bolter for the Pumas' World Cup party.

The centre was called up to Argentina's first Rugby Championship squad by Mario Ledesma, who will be aiming to build on an outstanding, historic Super Rugby campaign by the Jaguares.

Mensa is a bundle of energy and is capable of hitting the ground running at international level.

Yet to make his debut, the 23-year-old has impressed Ledesma while playing for Argentina XV in the Americas Rugby Championship.

Sonny Bill Williams is a doubt for New Zealand's Rugby Championship opener against Argentina due to a hamstring injury.

The Blues centre was this week named in the initial All Blacks squad for the clashes with the Pumas in Buenos Aires on July 20 and South Africa in Wellington a week later.

Williams may not be available to feature for the world champions, though, as he is suffering from a tight hamstring.

The 33-year-old missed much of the Super Rugby season after undergoing knee surgery.

Williams played 50 minutes in a club match for Ponsonby against Grammar TEC last week before suffering another fitness setback.

The powerful midfielder has been linked with a return to rugby league after the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

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