Polota-Nau sees potential in Uelese

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Wallabies hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau sees a bit of himself in rookie Jordan Uelese, with the hulking youngster impressing his fellow rakes in Test camp.

Polota-Nau is in line to start against South Africa on Saturday night, with Stephen Moore withdrawing from the squad for the birth of his third child.

The Force hooker has started in two of Australia’s five Tests this season, coming off the bench in both Bledisloes, but proving influential off the pine and said an elevation wouldn’t change his view.

“I know a lot of people think that starting's important, which it is, but in saying that a finishing game is just as important,” he said.

“I just got to the point where it doesn't matter whether I start or finish, just matters where the impact of my play lies.”

Jordan Uelese has impressed in training. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyEither Uelese or returned squad hooker Tolu Latu will be Polota-Nau’s deputy on Saturday night.

Polota-Nau said Uelese would be ready should Wallabies coach Michael Cheika opt to throw the 20-year-old Rebels rake into the fray.

“That kid, I wish I had his physique,” he said.

“He reminds me of me back in the day but a more confident me.

“He's put his front foot forward by asking the questions.

“We've been accommodating to try and make him fully prepared as possible.”

Latu’s fitness was publicly called out by Cheika after the June Series, with a neck injury another setback for the 24-year-old.

He made his playing return for the NSW Country Eagles in the opening round of the NRC, called into the Wallabies squad after Moore’s withdrawal.

The NSW hooker said he felt he was fitter and was ready for a tight battle with Uelese over that spot.

“It's been tough the last couple of weeks, being out with injury, not being able to do much,” he said.

“Since I've been here (in camp)...I'm trying to get my head around that and getting used to throwing again,” he said.

“My fitness has gotten a bit better, probably better than in the June series Test window, so I feel like that's improved a lot.”

Latu said it wouldn’t be easy to edge Uelese for that reserves spot.

“He's a big boy for a young fella, he's got the size, he's got the skill so it'll be a tough battle,” he said.

Polota-Nau starting at hooker won’t be the only change to the Wallabies starters when it is named on Thursday, with Adam Coleman set to return from a shoulder injury.

The Wallabies will name their team to take on the Springboks on Thursday afternoon.

Australia hosts South Africa on Saturday night at nib Stadium, kicking off at 6pm AWST, 8pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS, Network Ten, Win and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO. Buy tickets here.