At 4:30am (EST) on June 23, Melbourne Rebels young gun Semisi Tupou was lining up for his final ever Junior Wallabies match in his third consecutive Under 20s World Championship.
While the feat of achieving three consecutive years of Junior Wallabies selection would usually be an overriding highlight of any Under 20s World Championship, the prospect of being crowned champions for the first time in the nation’s history became a more pressing topic.
Tupou, who’d been a staple at outside centre throughout the entire tournament, was again instrumental in setting up several plays which almost saw Australia claw back a 13-18 half time deficit into an historic first ever championship.
Yet, Australia and Tupou were to be denied, falling by an agonising one point to eventual winners France.
A humble and hardworking member of the Rebels playing group, Tupou may have been forgiven for lamenting and wallowing in the missed opportunity, yet the 20-year-old found solace that he and the Junior Wallabies squad had made Australian rugby proud.
“I think anyone could have guessed that we were extremely disappointed with the result,” Tupou said.
“In the dressing sheds there were tears and plenty of heads that were down, but in that moment, we were told, for a sport that is struggling back home, our efforts at the World Cup have definitely brought the belief back and we have picked it up off its knees and given it hope.
“Although we were still upset with the result, hearing a message like that definitely brought light to the situation because as players we all want our sport to strive.”
One of the personal highlights Tupou embraced the most was the opportunity to run out with fellow Rebels squad members Esei Ha’angana and Trevor Hosea, and Rebels Academy young gun Sione Tui.
With the quartet representing the city of Melbourne proud, it was a glimpse into the future of what four of the Rebels’ starting XV may look like in the near future.
And aside from the on-field chemistry the four players have now built, the overriding emotion from the tournament was the personal connection Tupou shared with what he now calls his “close mates”.
“It’s pretty special anytime I get to share the field with my close mates but to do it with Sione, Esei and Trevor, especially in the green and gold jersey is definitely something I will remember,” Tupou said.
“I think it’s a massive achievement for home grown Victorians Sione and Trevor to represent not only their family and friends but their state on the big stage, and it’s something they should be very proud of.”
Tupou, along with Hosea, Tui and Ha’angana have now returned back to Melbourne and will enjoy a well-deserved break before launching into the 2020 Super Rugby preseason.
And while the chapter of Tupou’s Junior Wallabies career is now over, the back could not be better placed now to further his already promising Super Rugby career and become a major part of the Rebels’ on-field plans.