‘Our house is gone’: Tongan Thor’s heartbreak
"OUR house is gone". With those emotional words, Wallabies prop Taniela Tupou began his prayers for his large family in Tonga caught in the destructive path of Cyclone Gita.
The Category 4 cyclone unleashed winds of more than 200km per hour across the Pacific island where the government declared a State of Emergency on Monday.
Tupou is preparing to play a trial for the Queensland Reds against a Fijian XV at Ballymore on Thursday but his heart is with his family in Tonga.
Tupou's mother Loisi and family live in a tiny village outside the Tongan capital of Nuku'alofa and he had heard of the devastation in his homeland even before the full force of the cyclone hit.
"Just got off the phone with my brother from Tonga. Our house is gone already and the cyclone is not even there yet," Tupou posted on his Instagram account on Monday night.
"Not exactly what I wanted to hear but much love to all my Fams back home.
"Stay safe errbody."
Tupou, 21, shed tears during the singing of the pre-Test Australian national anthem before his debut for the Wallabies in Edinburgh last November which was a proud moment for Aussies and Tongans alike.
With power out in Tonga, Tupou was on Tuesday waiting anxiously for an update on his family and damage reports.
The Reds will start shaping their Super Rugby line-up in the 7pm trial against the Fijian XV with Hamish Stewart and new signing Jono Lance certain to share time at flyhalf.
The experienced Lance has the all clear to play after landing in Brisbane last month when in the final stages of healing a broken hand sustained during his off-season stint with English club Worcester.
At fullback, Aidan Toua will get substantial time after finalising a contract with the club last weekend.
Two strong seasons with the ACT Brumbies in 2016-17 make him the best credentialed fullback in the Reds ranks while Wallaby Karmichael Hunt's future remains unresolved with his next court appearance scheduled for Monday.
The Brumbies have selected a strong line-up, with 10 current or former Wallabies, for Wednesday night's final trial against the Chiefs at Sunshine Coast Stadium at Kawana.
Christian Lealiifano will captain the side from flyhalf while Isi Naisarani and Rob Valetini will give the backrow some big ball-carrying crunch.
Meanwhile, Dwayne Nestor, the former Perth Spirit coach who was general manager of Souths Rugby Club in Brisbane for two years, has been named the new Wallaroos head coach for the run towards the 2021 World Cup.
Brumbies (starting team): Scott Sio, Josh Mann-Rea, Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Sam Carter, Rob Valetini, Lachlan McCaffrey, Isi Naisarani, Joe Powell, Christian Lealiifano (c), Chance Peni, Kyle Godwin, Tevita Kuridrani, Henry Speight, Tom Banks.