- Paul Tupai on his love of the game
- Bedford Blues forward still playing at 42
In the midst of season 24 as a senior rugby player, Bedford Blues’ Paul Tupai is one of the last of a dying breed.
The 42-year-old was already playing representative rugby back in New Zealand in 1995 when the game turned professional.
To put into perspective just how far back that is, Bill Clinton was still serving his first term as American president, Frank Bruno was the world boxing champion and Pierce Brosnan made his first appearance as James Bond in Goldeneye.
Samoan international Tupai moved across to England in 2006, playing a couple of seasons at Northampton Saints before arriving at Goldington Road in 2008.
Since then he has become part of the furniture for the Blues in the Greene King IPA Championship, and while he does not yet know what next season holds, there could be another campaign left in him.
“It’s the love of the game that’s kept me going,” he said."It’s the love of the game that’s kept me going."
“As long as that passion is still there I want to carry on playing. I’ve been going year-by-year with Bedford and we’ll have to look at the end of the season.
“I’ve been very lucky with injuries over my career and that’s a big reason why I’ve been able to go on so long.
“I had a shoulder operation earlier this year which kept me out for 12 weeks, that’s probably the biggest injury I’ve had in more than 20 years of rugby.
“I think if you can avoid the big knee and shoulder problems, that’s the key. Those are the sorts of injuries which force you to stop.”
Father and Son
If Tupai does go on one more year, he could cross off another item from the bucket list and play alongside his son Connor.
Currently in the Northampton Saints academy, Connor will turn 17 next week, but unlike his dad he plies his trade at scrum-half or fly-half."Playing rugby with my son would be one thing to tick off the bucket list."
“He’s a nine or 10, so he’s actually talented unlike me!” joked Tupai.
“My goal is to play senior rugby with him. That’s quite a big thing in New Zealand, to be able to play with your son, and it’s something I’d like to do next year hopefully. It would be one thing to tick off the bucket list.
“He’s at Saints at the moment and he’s lucky that he’s been brought up around the professional game.
“It’s up to him if he wants to make it as a professional, he knows what he needs to do but I won’t put pressure on him.”
Work and Play
While playing as long as Tupai has requires incredible dedication, the Bedford legend has an active life away from the rugby pitch.
As well as turning out in the Championship, he works full-time as a quarry worker, and believes that working hard off the pitch is more important than ever in the professional era."You won’t be playing forever, and it’s important to have a back-up plan."
“When I started playing rugby back in New Zealand it was still amateur,” said Tupai, who won the Ranfurly Shield with Bay of Plenty under Vern Cotter and Joe Schmidt before moving north.
“After that I’ve always worked a bit alongside playing and I think it’s important.
“Given where I’d come from it made sense for me, but for young guys coming through now they need to think about that as well.
“You won’t be playing forever, and it’s important to have a back-up plan. Going from professional rugby to the real world is difficult, so I’d always encourage guys to be doing something alongside rugby, work experience on days off, a part-time degree.”