Teammates the simple fix for Latu brain snaps

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

When Test matches begin to heat up, Wallabies hooker Tolu Latu needs to think of his teammates and keep his cool.

So says Wallabies assistant Nathan Grey, after the frailty in Latu's game was yet again exposed in the last two Tests by the NSW hooker copping yellow cards in both.

Against the Pumas in Salta, Latu had helped turn the game on its head coming off the bench but an elbow to the head of an Argentinian defender forced him off in the final minutes of the match.

The game was won but it was an entirely avoidable black mark on Latu's card.

A fortnight later, Latu was sent to the sideline again in Japan after being involved in a to-and-fro with All Blacks hooker Codie Taylor, and pushing his opposite number in the face. 

It was a moment All Blacks coach Steve Hansen described as “dumb” post-match and something the Wallabies are keen to eliminate.

Grey said Latu had to realise in the heat of the moment that brain snaps have a wide-reaching impact; none more damaging than leaving the team with only 14 men for ten minutes.

In Japan that disadvantage saw the Wallabies overrun by the All Blacks.

“It's all about realising how that impacts the team and it's crucial,” he said.

“Tolu's certainly aware around how to deal with those situations and keep himself under control but from him personally it's a matter of understanding, ‘How does that impact my team?’ and that's got to come into your decision-making, when you get into those heated moments and being able to control yourself.

“Because there's heaps of them in the game, so it's a matter of understanding how that impacts the team.

“He certainly understands how things went with that yellow card (against the All Blacks) that it was pretty costly for us.”

The competition for the Wallabies’ starting hooker spot is tight but Latu has shown glimpses of brilliance in the Tests he has played and could be in contention for a start when the team is named on Thursday, though Folau Fainga’a and Tatafu Polota-Nau are pushing their credentials as well.

Latu would also have to convince Wallabies coaches - and senior players - he can be trusted to not lose his cool and potentially leave the team down a man.

Michael Cheika has a full complement of players to pick from against Wales with Adam Coleman over a groin injury that forced him out of the third Bledisloe.

Grey hinted Samu Kerevi could return to the starting 13 spot after impressing off the bench in Japan.

Samu Kerevi was impressive against the All Blacks in Japan. Photo: Getty ImagesKerevi made his mark in the 20 minutes he played in the third Bledisloe and Grey said he had no hesitation with endorsing Kerevi’s defensive ability as well.

“He's got a really good understanding, we did a lot of work in the June series against ireland where we were pretty frugal around our defence and got a lot of confidence out of that,” he said.

“Unfortunately, the injury saw him miss out on playing a lot of Super.

“He's come back into the fold and probably with the injury of Reece Hodge, probably fast-tracked him a little bit around coming onto the bench and being involved.  

“So, he's taken that in his stride really well, prepared very well.

“He's a guy who does a lot of work off the field and has that understanding and good communication with the other players so that he can get the best out of him, so he's very good from that perspective.”

Though the 25-year-old’s Bledisloe return was his first top flight rugby outing in four months, Grey was confident Kerevi would be able to play an entire game if needed.

“Definitely. He's obviously had that long layoff but he showed in the 20 minutes he played against New Zealand in that second half what he can bring to the table both sides of the ball and that's something that's exciting,” he said.

The Wallabies take on Wales in Cardiff on Saturday November 10, kicking off at 5:20pm local, Sunday 4:20am AEDT, LIVE on beIN Sport Channel 513 and SBS.