June 6, 2018 / 7:34 AM / 14 days ago

Rugby - Hooker Latu joins Wallabies squad in place of Uelese

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia have called up hooker Tolu Latu to their squad for Saturday’s first test against Ireland in Brisbane after Jordan Uelese was sidelined for the rest of the season due to a knee injury.

Australia Rugby Union - Australia's Captain's Run - Stade de France, Saint-Denis near Paris, France - 18/11/16 Australia's Tolu Latu during the captain's run the day before a match between France and Australia. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

With Tatafu Polota-Nau rested for the series, Uelese had been the most experienced hooker in the squad with his two appearances off the bench last year before he suffered an ACL rupture playing for the Melbourne Rebels last weekend.

The other hookers in the original 33 - former Sydney garbage collectors Brandon Paenga-Amosa and Folau Fainga’a - are both uncapped.

Latu, who won four caps in 2016, was already training with the squad protectively and his international experience earned him the nod ahead of Anaru Rangi.

“Right now he’s our most-capped hooker in Australia, so he’s got that little bit of experience playing in the big match atmosphere,” Australia coach Michael Cheika said in Brisbane.

“Anaru Rangi has had a really good season with Melbourne too so he’s definitely not out of the equation. I’m just keen for the two uncapped hookers to have a little experience around.”

Latu was included in the squad for last year’s June internationals but did not get on the pitch, with Cheika suggesting he was not fit enough.

The Tongan-born 25-year-old has played only four matches for the New South Wales Waratahs in Super Rugby this season, all off the bench.

“He’s been out of favour at the Tahs for a lot of the year and he’s coming back into favour a little,” Cheika added.

“His two or three games he’s played, I think he’s had a good impact and he’s been excellent since he’s been in camp.

“He’ll be banking on his last few games of form but also his previous games for the Wallabies and I’m sure he’ll do well.”

Cheika will name his squad for the first of three tests against the Six Nation champions on Thursday.

Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly

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