WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Wallabies hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau has answered an SOS call from New South Wales Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson and returned to Australia to play Super Rugby after the Leicester Tigers agreed a short-term loan agreement.
Polota-Nau has been drafted in due to injury to Sham Vui. First-choice hooker Tolu Latu has also been sidelined due to a six-week ban for dangerous play and is not eligible to play again until April 27.
The 33-year-old Polota-Nau had not been playing regularly for Leicester in the English Premiership and the Waratahs said the Tigers had agreed to the deal to keep him match fit.
“We needed to look at who could immediately slot into the Super Rugby level competition and was a good fit with our squad,” Gibson said. “Tatafu fits the bill. From a timing perspective it worked well with the Leicester Tigers calendar and we are currently finalising the paperwork.”
Leicester have not qualified for the knockout phases of European club competition and have just three Premiership fixtures in the next month, against Sale on March 8, Northampton on March 22 and Exeter on April 6.
Polota-Nau has won 89 caps for the Wallabies since making his debut in 2005 and played more than 140 Super Rugby games for the Waratahs and Western Force.
While he qualified for the national side under the ‘Giteau law’, which allowed him to be selected for the Wallabies despite playing overseas, the agreement would allow him to play in front of national coach Michael Cheika.
“It’s a win-win for us and Tatafu, who’ll have the opportunity to get game time in front of the Australian coaches and selectors during this World Cup year,” Gibson added.
Polota-Nau is likely to play off the bench for the Waratahs this weekend against the Queensland Reds, with Damien Fitzpatrick expected to start.
Gibson, however, said he was eager for wider squad members John Sauni and Andrew Tuala to also force their claims.
“JP Sauni and Andrew Tuala are also training the house down and eager to get their first Super Rugby cap,” Gibson said.
“It was great to see them get game time ... with the Emerging Waratahs on Friday when they played Auckland A.
“It all helps them on their way to being ready to step up into Super Rugby.”
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Ian Ransom