Giant teenager Carwyn Tuipulotu is set to make his Guinness PRO14 debut for the Scarlets at home to defending champions Leinster on Saturday evening (7.35pm). The 19st 7lbs back rower has been named on the bench for the rearranged league clash which was postponed in November because of Covid cases.
Tuipulotu, 19, is the son of former Tongan international Kati Tuipulotu and was born in Gwent in 2001 while his dad was playing for Ebbw Vale. Kati wanted to give his son a Welsh name as a way of showing how much he enjoyed being in the country.
So, he chose Carwyn, which means “blessing in love from God” in Welsh. The youngster is also a cousin of Wales international Taulupe Faletau and England’s Vunipola brothers. In 2005, the Tuipulotu family moved to Merseyside when back rower Kati joined New Brighton RFC, with Carwyn going on to study at Sedbergh School.
His barnstorming talent at No 8 was recognised by Newcastle, who handed him a spot in their Academy, but now he is back in the land of his birth having been signed up by the Scarlets in 2018.
Currently studying philosophy at Swansea University, he has already represented Wales U18s and is tipped for a bright future in the game. There’s also a first PRO14 start for the gifted Sam Costelow, with the 20-year-old handed the No 10 jersey in a team containing just four survivors from the loss to Cardiff Blues last weekend.
One of those, Welsh international Johnny McNicholl, switches from wing to full-back, while Uzair Cassiem will make his 50th appearance as he replaces the concussed Sione Kalamafoni at No 8.
Dan Davis is back fit to come in on the openside, which is a boost with Josh Macleod away with Wales and James Davies and Jac Morgan both crocked.
Head coach Glenn Delaney said: “This game has provided an opportunity for guys who haven’t been playing these last few weeks and that is bringing new energy and excitement to the group.
“Our job is to make sure they are free and are able to express themselves.
“When you play Leinster, you have to make sure you remain in the contest to give yourself a chance to execute. We know they are the form horse, they have been for a number of years and they have plenty of depth. It is an opportunity to have a crack at them and we are excited by it.”
In addition to being without their 11 Wales Six Nations squad members, the Scarlets are also missing the likes of Kalamafoni, Davies, Morgan, Rhys Patchell, Steff Evans, Samson Lee, Rob Evans and Aaron Shingler through injury.
For Leinster, Lions prop Tadhg Furlong starts on the tighthead as he makes his first appearance for the province in 12 months following a long lay-off with back and calf problems.