Polota-Nau will play for Wallabies again: Cheika

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by Beth Newman

Tatafu Polota-Nau’s club rugby future is unclear but Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is adamant his resting will not be the end of his Test time.

Australia’s back-up hooker has been battling an arm injury since early in the Super Rugby season, after breaking the limb for the second time and was left out of the Wallabies tour of Pretoria and London, with the squad named on Thursday.

As he mulls over the possible of another operation, player and coach opted to take the safe route when it came to his fitness.

Polota-Nau with a fan in Brisbane. Photo: Getty ImagesThe 31-year-old, who has passed the 60-Test mark that would allow him to be picked for the Wallabies from overseas, is yet to officially commit to a club for next year, but is believed to be in negotiations with newly-promoted Premiership side, Bristol, and a return to full fitness might just preserve his longevity.

“Basically it's as good as playing with a broken arm,” Cheika said.

“He's been pushing hard, it's a real credit to him. It has been tough for him. I think that's enough now, let's get another guy going in that spot.

“What he's adding in games has been really vital for us and he's  a player we want in top condition going forward.

Tolu Latu has impressed for the NSW Country Eagles. Photo: Getty Images“His decision to have a rest or operate, we'll make in the next couple of weeks and decide what happens to him for the rest of the season.”

Polota-Nau has been replaced by his NSW understudy, Tolu Latu, who was overtaken by Hugh Roach in the pecking order at Moore Park this season.

Latu’s inclusion in the Wallabies Rugby Championship squad is a direct reflection of his NRC form, where he has been pivotal for the NSW Country Eagles in scrums, especially.

He will be up against James Hanson for the Wallabies bench spot, with the latter on the fringes of the Test squad in the past year.

The Reds won't be slipping off their scrum focus again. Photo: Getty ImagesQueensland’s Andrew Ready was arguably the form hooker outside of capped Wallabies, across the Australian Super Rugby teams this season, but Latu’s provincial form has seen him leapfrog his northern counterpart.

“Andrew...I've spoken to him about some of the things he needs to improve on,” he said.

“He got a look at the squad earlier on in the year. I gave him a few pointers then around what we wanted to see from him...to get selected again going further because we know that hooker's an area we need to reinforce.

“I feel that where we are right now and what's been happening in NRC block, Tolu's been the hooker that I’ve seen, for the role we might have for him as a finisher in matches, he can bring the best impact for us."

Will Skelton has been playing in the NRC. Photo: Getty ImagesCheika has leaned on the NRC plenty this season, sending regular starters including Rob Simmons and Scott Fardy back to the competition and preferring to leave some fringe players there to gain game time.

This time around that list includes Ben McCalman and Will Skelton, both of whom will remain in Australia for the duration of the tour.

“We're looking at every game, for selection because that's what that tournament's supposed to do,” he said.

“It's supposed to be the next tier, so that's what we're going to use it for.

“And when Australian players, Wallaby squad members go back there to play, they should be performing in a selection point of view.”

Prop Allan Alaalatoa is a chance to play in Pretoria despite a knee injury, included in the 30-man squad.

“Touch and go but I wouldn't have brought him if I thought he couldn't be an option,” Cheika said.

“He's really improved well and he's ahead of schedule.

“[He’s] very possible for the first game, if not, definitely the second but we're backing that he'll be a good chance of the first game.”

The Wallabies fly out on Saturday morning ahead of an October 2 clash with the Springboks in Pretoria.