Polota-Nau return a timely one for Wallabies in Wales

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Tatafu Polota-Nau’s Wallabies return is a timely one for Australia after his first English season, according to rookie teammate Folau Fainga'a.

Polota-Nau has been missing from the Test side since their loss to Argentina on the Gold Coast in September, after a hamstring injury forced him out of the Wallabies’ South Africa-Argentina tour.

Based in England, Polota-Nau wasn’t released for the third Bledisloe Test and stayed in Leicester while the Wallabies trained in Japan last weekend.

This week, though, his influence could be pivotal after a season playing in the English Premiership with the Leicester Tigers.

Sunday’s Wales Test is Rookie hooker Folau Fainga’a’s first Test in the Northern Hemisphere and though Tolu Latu played the 2016 tour, he also only has 10 Tests to his name.

Polota-Nau's inclusion would be no silver bullet - he started in the first four Rugby Championship Tests, where the Wallabies' lineout had its issues - but with 66 Tests racked up coupled with a year of going head-to-head with some of England's best, will be more than handy.

Whether or not Polota-Nau is selected against Wales, Fainga’a said the Leicester rake’s presence was invaluable.

“He’s a  lot (of help) for us, especially for myself and Tolu,” he said.

“The experience he has playing over here as well and just for us, helping us heaps with our set piece when he comes back.”

Australia’s lineout battles have been well-documented this year - the Wallabies finished the Rugby Championship with just a 78.4 per cent success rate,  and lost two of seven lineouts in the third Bledisloe Test as well.

The Welsh lost just two lineouts in this year’s Six Nations, finishing with a 96 per cent success rate from that tournament.

Fainga’a said the side’s hookers had been working on taking a greater share of responsibility for lineout success.

“I think from us hookers we've got to take more ownership of that as well,” Fainga’a said.

“It's just doing more extras and hitting those spots during the week so we can take it into the game really.”

Flanker David Pocock said they simply had to improve in every part of the lineout against Wales and an extra training week in Japan helped that cause.

"We've got to be getting better quality ball to our halfbacks,” he said.

“That's something we're working on - we know how important it is and as a forward pack, we had a good chance last week in Odawara to put some work into that and we'll continue that today.”

Pocock missed last year’s Spring Tour as part of a year away from Australian rugby but he has not been taken aback by Wales’s rise this year, on their way to no. 3 in the world.

“They're a talented side and they're one of those teams that have got a really good mix between forwards and backs,” he said.

“They're able to rumble up through the forwards and also got some pretty dangerous backs out wide, so I guess you're going into the game and you know set piece and defence is going to be important.”

The Wallabies take on Wales on Saturday November 10, kicking off at 5:20pm local, Sunday 4:20am AEDT, LIVE on beIN Sport and SBS.