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Rugby News

Polota-Nau answers Australia's call

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Leicester Tigers hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau has returned to Australia to link up with the Wallabies squad ahead of this weekend’s Rugby Championship game against Argentina at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.

Polota-Nau missed out on selection for the opening fixture of the tournament, against the Springboks in South Africa, after off-season surgery on a knee complaint which the hooker has recovered from working with Tigers medical staff during the opening weeks of the pre-season in Leicester.

Speaking in Brisbane, where Polota-Nau is preparing alongside his Australia team-mates ahead of Saturday’s game against Los Pumas, the hooker said: "I'm quite shocked to be back here. Little did I know Michael Cheika got my UK number. I never gave it to him, I didn't want to but somehow he got it.

"But I answered it and he asked if I'd come on and I said: 'Sure, why not, I'll give it one last crack'. I think it's from my end just to see if I've still got it because I ended on a sour note last season.

"But in saying that, I've still got a lot of hunger to try and solidify that No.2 spot."

The experienced international even admitted he thought his time with the Wallabies may have come to an end after last season.

"I actually thought last season was my last with the Wallabies just due to the fact that I probably didn't have enough of the stamina that I used to have," he said.

"But that was only because my preparation probably wasn't the best.

"So I said to myself, this season coming, just to get everything prepared right and give myself the best possible opportunity because that's the challenge (Cheika) laid for me.

"And once I did, I felt so much better and he was probably right. It took me a while to think about it but it's a World Cup, so that superseded everything really."

Polota-Nau is competing for a place in the matchday squad with young hookers Folau Faingaa and Jordan Uelese, who he’s happy to come up against for his own development as well as adding depth to Australia’s front-row stocks.

"I think I've still got a lot more room to improve," he said.

"But watching last week and Folau [Faingaa] stepping up, there's a lot of competition now for the No.2 spot … and it's exactly what Australian rugby needs.

"We need to build the depth not just for now but for future generations and it keeps me on my toes which is always a positive."

Tomas Lavanini, who is due to join Tigers in the new season,  retains his place in the Argentina squad for this weekend's encounter with the Wallabies. Former Tigers back-rower Pablo Matera leads the Pumas while Felipe Ezcurra, who spent a short spell on loan with the club last season, is among their replacements. Matt Toomua is named among the replacements by the Wallabies.

Australia: Kurtley Beale, Reece Hodge, Tevita Kuridrani, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Christian Lealiifano, Will Genia; Scott Sio, Folau Fainga'a, Sekope Kepu, Izack Rodda, Rory Arnold, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Michael Hooper (c), Isi Naisarani. Replacements: Tolu Latu, James Slipper, Taniela Tupou, Rob Simmons, Luke Jones, Nic White, Matt Toomua, James O'Connor

Argentina: Joaquin Tuculet, Santiago Cordero, Matias Moroni, Jeronimo de la Fuente, Ramiro Moyano, Nicolas Sanchez, Tomas Cubelli; Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Julian Montoya, Juan Figallo, Guido Petti; Tomas Lavanini, Pablo Matera (c); Facundo Isa, Tomas Lezana. Replacements: Santiago Socino, Mayco Vivas, Ramiro Herrera, Matias Alemanno, Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Felipe Ezcurra, Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, Matias Orlando