PAUL 'TOOPS' TUPAI TESTIMONIAL YEAR STARTS TOMORROW

Tomorrow’s match will also double as the launch of Paul Tupai’s Testimonial Year with a party in the marquee from 6pm with live band, MC Martin Hynes and plenty of fun and games.

Toops’ joined Bedford in 2008 as a fresh faced 32-year-old and has since gone on to play 245 games for the Blues scoring 45 tries in the process, including a memorable hat-trick against the Cornish Pirates in 2014.

His career is quite astonishing having first played representative rugby back in New Zealand in 1995 when the game turned professional. Tupai was a key member of the Bay of Plenty squad that won the Ranfurly Shield in 2004 and even turned out against the British Lions in 2005 before heading to England, and Northampton Saints, the following year.

But it is at Goldington Road where Tupai truly settled and the Bedford Blues faithful have enjoyed every moment of his time at the club.

Speaking about his Testimonial, Tupai said: "It is a huge honour for me and I'm incredibly proud and humbled to have been considered at all. When I first arrived at Bedford, nearly a decade ago, I had no idea how much it would change my life.

"I've been privileged to have played competitive rugby for a quarter of a century for some great teams, but Bedford is a truly special club. I must thank Geoff (Irvine) and Mike (Rayer), without who I wouldn’t still be here, and all the Blues supporters who have taken me to heart during my time here.

"I must mention the lads, I’ve played with some great guys over my years and that’s what the game is about, hopefully a few of them will be involved this year.

“We've lined up a few fantastic events and all will be revealed at the launch following the game against Rotherham tomorrow.”

Born and raised in Rotorua, New Zealand, Toops was a keen sportsman from a young age with an enjoyment of boxing and judo before deciding that rugby was the sport for him. After a couple of seasons with Ngongotaha and then Rangiuru in Te Puke, it wasn't long before Bay of Plenty came calling and he went on to make over 100 appearances for the famous club.

Tupai's move to Northampton followed a summer of international rugby with Samoa and he soon settled into life at Franklin's Gardens. He quickly became a legend up the road with his talismanic and powerful displays, also taking on a mentoring role of youngsters such as England captain Dylan Hartley, whom he remains close friends with. 

That role continued, and still does, when he moved to Bedford in 2008. Players such as George Kruis, Will Fraser, Jackson Wray, James Cannon and many others were all taken under his wing.

Speaking about Tupai's Testimonial, Blues Director of Rugby Mike Rayer said: "During my time here, plenty of players have come and gone through the Goldington Road gates, but none have made such a huge impact quite like Toops. Thinking of finishing his rugby career before coming over to England, I couldn't be happier that he changed his mind.

"To say Paul Tupai is respected by his peers would be an understatement. Not only does he give his all on the pitch, he is one of the fittest players around and still has time to offer help and advice to the younger lads - many of who were still in nappies when Toops was smashing opponents at Bay of Plenty.

"I truly cannot think of anyone who deserves a Testimonial more than Toops and I hope that Blues’ fans offer him the same support and loyalty as he has shown the club over all these years."

Tomorrow’s party hosted by Martin Hynes with a raffle ran by the Followers Association will also feature live music from the band Blue Eyed Souls and the complete list of events for the Toops Testimonial. Nos’s Nosh will be serving Pork Rolls in the marquee to soak up a couple of beers with the man himself.

Stay up to date on all things Toops Testimonial by visiting the website www.toops.co.uk or on his social media pages; @SendintheToops on Twitter and Facebook (links available).

Next Home Match

Friday 24th November
1st XV Championship
Goldington Road
Kick-Off
7.45pm

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