Polota-Nau returning to Waratahs, set to face Reds at SCG

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Wallabies hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau will be back in sky blue this weekend, returning to NSW on a short-term deal.

Polota-Nau, currently playing with the Leicester Tigers, has returned to NSW on an injury cover deal, the length of which is yet to be decided as the Waratahs hunt for extra front row depth.

NSW has been battling with their front row depth after an already light pack was hurt by injuries to Shambeckler Vui and a six-week suspension for usual bench hooker Tolu Latu.

Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson said there was still some details to iron out but expected Polota-Nau would be coming off the bench against the Reds at the SCG after arriving in Sydney on Monday.

"We're finalising the paperwork and we're hopeful that he would be available for that game," he aid.

"That's the idea in terms of he's just got a flight, he's going to  go through all his routines to get himself ready. I don't foresee him starting the game against the Reds."

Polota-Nau last played for the Waratahs in 2016, but he wasn't offered a NSW contract after that season and made a move to the Western Force for 2017.

The 33-year-old ultimately moved overseas at the end of 2017, after inking a two-and-a-half year deal with the Tigers.

Gibson said Polota-Nau was keen to get back to the Waratahs and keep himself in the forefront of Wallabies selectors' minds.

"He's very excited. He's played 142 caps for the Waratahs, he has the opportunity to add to that but also it's an opportunity for him to get in front of the Australian selectors," he said.

"Part of his goal is to make the Rugby World Cup squad and the best way he can do that is by playing rugby and playing rugby in the Super Rugby competition."

Polota-Nau  has been playing limited minutes with the Tigers this season but could yet return to the Tigers before the year is out, depending on the length of the agreed loan.

Gibson is hoping Polota-Nau will be available for the entire six weeks of Tolu Latu's suspension at least.

"We're working through that in terms of the paper work, we're pretty confident it'll work out in terms of the release and so forth," he said 

His return is a timely one as well with the veteran a handy scrummager, an asset that will be invaluable against a powerful Reds pack.

"It's (the scrum) an area we're putting a lot of work into at the moment," he said.

"We know it's something we need to improve and we know that's a strength of the Reds, it's what they've been training for so that's our first challenge.

"That's one area Taf excels in. Certainly he's a big body, certainly add to that scrummaging strength on our behalf."

Gibson said he wasn't expecting many, if any, other changes to the 23 from the side that beat the Sunwolves 31-30 in Tokyo a fortnight ago.

The Reds suffered a 22-12 loss to the defending champion Crusaders last weekend but Gibson said the strides the Queenslanders had made in 2019 were obvious.

"They're much, much better aren't they?," he said.

"They're a very competitive unit - you saw that on the weekend, saw that in the first game. So, we know what we're in for."

The Waratahs host the Reds at the SCG on Saturday night, kicking off at 7:45pm AEDT, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO.