MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau thought he was about to get fired by Leicester Tigers when he had a call from the coach but instead ended up thrilled to be offered a stint back at Super Rugby’s New South Wales Waratahs in the leadup to the World Cup.
The 33-year-old has returned to the Sydney club where he cut his teeth in professional rugby, signing a short-term loan deal to solve a hooker crisis caused by a six-week ban given to first-choice rake Tolu Latu and injury to Sham Vui.
Although capped 89 times for the Wallabies, Polota-Nau has battled for space on a Leicester roster featuring England rake Tom Youngs and recently capped Scotland hooker Jake Kerr, and was sidelined for weeks by a knee ligament injury.
He will ease back into Super Rugby with a spot on the bench for the Waratahs’ match against the Queensland Reds this weekend.
“I got the call from Geordy asking to state a proposition towards me and, to be honest, I thought, ‘This will be interesting, am I fired?’” Polota-Nau said of his chat with Leicester boss Geordan Murphy.
“I just saw a great opportunity, one to get some more game time, but two, hopefully stake claims towards the World Cup.
“This was just a curve ball but definitely one I’d catch and run with.”
Polota-Nau has some work to do to convince Wallabies coach Michael Cheika to take him to a third World Cup, with a number of young hookers pressing their claims.
Although selected as starting hooker against New Zealand at the start of the Rugby Championship, Polota-Nau fell back in the pecking order by the end of the season as Cheika opted to try Latu and Folau Fainga’a in the number two jersey during the season-ending tour of Europe.
“There’s actually plenty of good depth here in Australia to cover hooker, so I’m giving it one last roll of the dice,” he said.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)