How a granny from Greenock paved the way for Sione Tuipulotu to become a Scotland cap contender

A grandmother from Greenock opened the door for Sione Tuipulotu to sample Scottish rugby and the Australian-born centre is now hoping it leads to a full Scotland cap.

Sione Tuipoluto in action for Glasgow Warriors during his club debut in the pre-season match against Newcastle Falcons. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNS

The 24-year-old joined Glasgow Warriors from Japanese club Yamaha Jubilo and made his debut on Friday night in the narrow defeat by Newcastle Falcons at Scotstoun.

Playing at 13, Tuipulotu linked up well with Stafford McDowall in an impressive midfield pairing for Danny Wilson’s side.

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A former Australia Under-20 internationalist, his ambition is now to play Test rugby for Scotland for whom he is eligible through Jaqueline Thomson who emigrated from Greenock.

Sione Tuipulotu hopes to play for Scotland and qualifies through his grandmother. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNS

“I’m really close with my Grandma and she has a thick Scottish accent, so I always knew I was Scottish!” said Tuipulotu.

"She played a massive part in me and my siblings' upbringing. My parents used to work pretty hard when we were younger so they were at work during the week or at the weekends so we would go and stay over at my grandma's house. We loved going there at the weekends and just running amok.”

Tuipulotu made his name initially with the Melbourne Rebels, becoming the first homegrown player to represent the franchise in Super Rugby. His career stuttered when rivals Western Force folded and many of their players and coach Dave Wessels moved over to Melbourne. He opted to try his luck in Japan where his passion for the game was rekindled. The call then came from Murrayfield.

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“I went home after my first season in Japan, when the season got called because of Covid. My manager said the Scottish Rugby Union had got in contact and asked about the possibility of me moving over to Scotland.

“I spoke with Gregor Townsend over Facetime and I spoke with Danny as well and they basically gave me the rundown about how it would be a good move for me to come over and play rugby, and obviously with aspirations to play for Scotland and play for Glasgow.”

Tuipulotu could have opted to stay in Japan, apply for citizenship and try to force his way into the Brave Blossoms side but his ties to Scotland helped make up his mind.

“I suppose if you’re young in Japan you’ve really got two options. If you want to stay there it’s to play for Japan - you go for your passport. I was thinking about doing that but then I had the opportunity to go home back to Aussie or to come here.

"I thought for me it would mean a lot more to me to play for a country I had heritage with. That’s basically what led to my decision to come over here. I really wanted to play Test footie, or try to play Test footie, for a country I have heritage.”

Townsend included Tuipulotu in the Scotland squad for the summer tour only for the games to be called off due to Covid.

“I loved being part of the training and the whole setup,” the player said of his call-up. “Even though we didn't get to play any games, I was just grateful to build some relationships with some of the boys I was going to be playing with at Glasgow.”

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