Young Gun: Christopher Tolofua – France and Toulouse hooker

Christopher TolofuaThere are few tougher tests for a young front rower than away in Argentina but after a remarkable rise through the ranks Philippe Saint-André had no hesitation picking Christopher Tolofua for this summer’s Tests against the Pumas.
One of two hookers in the squad, Dimitri Szarzewski is the other, Tolofua will almost certainly join Federico Mendez as only the second 18-year-old to make his Test debut in the front row since World War Two.
It’s been a sensational six months for Tolofua who only turned 18 on New Year’s Eve.
Long-term injuries to Gary Botha and his medical replacement Aksventi Giorgadze saw Tolofua pulled from the French Under-19 Academy at Marcoussis into the Toulouse first team squad in January.
The youngster from Wallis and Futuna – an island group in French Polynesia – made his debut against Connacht in the Heineken Cup.
In that game he replaced William Servat for the final quarter of an hour, but it was a fortnight later, on his full debut that he really caught the eye.
Against Racing Metro at the Stade de France, in front of nearly 55,000 spectators, Tolofua used his considerable weight – nearly 120 kilos – to leave kiwi prop Benjamin Sa and Argentinean international Juan Imhoff on their backsides.
While his raw power is clear for all to see, his lineout throwing still remains an obvious weakness, but Tolofua insists he is working hard to resolve that issue.
“I want to do as well as I can but sometimes I do too much, and the lineouts are what people see the most, even at training,” said Tolofua, whose uncle Abraham played for Beziers, Montferrand and Nice during the 90s and 00s.
“On the throws it’s obvious, the remark that made me laugh was when I was told I had to relax because it looked like I had the world on my shoulders.
“I still can’t believe [I’m in the French squad]. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I prefer to take things as they come.
“It’s best not to realise what’s going on or it would put even more pressure on.”
Since his powerful display against Racing Tolofua has been a regular part of the Toulouse side, and when Servat became their third hooker to go down with a long-term injury, Tolofua stepped in starting the last five games of the regular season.
The teenager couldn’t have asked for a better set of mentors, with his Toulouse forwards coach Yannick Bru – the former French international – taking the same role for France full-time next season.
Servat will succeed Bru at Toulouse, with Tolofua expected to be an important member of the four-time European champions’ squad again next term.
But Bru has warned fans not to put too much pressure on the youngster who was not even playing hooker this time last year.
Bru said: “He needs to complete his apprenticeship at the right pace. At the moment he is in ultra-accelerated mode and it’s probably not the best thing for him.
“You have to remember that eight months ago he was still playing in the age group teams as a tighthead prop and he didn’t throw in at the lineout.

Leave a Comment