Tolu Latu has been given a shot at a Wallabies recall. Picture: Stuart Walmsley
Tolu Latu has been given a shot at a Wallabies recall. Picture: Stuart Walmsley

Waratahs give Latu a Wallabies leg-up

TOLU Latu has a chance for a late run at Wallabies selection in June after the hooker was recalled to the Waratahs' bench for their clash against the Highlanders on Saturday at Allianz Stadium.

The selection of Latu, who has played only one Super Rugby game this year against the Jaguares in round three, came as NSW coach Daryl Gibson also reinstated Jake Gordon over Nick Phipps as starting halfback, and promoted Tom Staniforth to the starting team to replace an injured Ned Hanigan.

 

Ryan McCauley joins the bench but the Waratahs are otherwise unchanged for what will be a pivotal clash for the side, as far as their Super Rugby credentials go.

After two narrow losses to the Blues and Crusaders, the Tahs know they must take the next step at home and win - not just to snap the Kiwi hoodoo, but to prove they have the capacity to be competitive in the finals if they win the Aussie conference.

Latu's return adds an extra dimension as far the Wallabies go, however.

Hooker shapes as a major problem for Australia in June against Ireland, with Stephen Moore retired and Tatafu Polota-Nau playing in England.

Latu, who has four caps for the Wallabies, was seen by Michael Cheika as one potential replacement but, stuck behind Damien Fitzpatrick and the hugely underrated Hugh Roach at NSW, the 25-year-old has been playing club rugby.

Latu has been third choice for the Waratahs. Picture: Mark Evans
Latu has been third choice for the Waratahs. Picture: Mark Evans

He was given a chance in the Tahs' heavy loss to the Jaguares in Buenos Aires but was dropped again the next week.

Waratahs forwards coach Simon Cron said Latu's throwing was the major issue so they've made him throw 200-plus balls a day at Tahs training, as well as working on fitness.

"He's had four 80-minute games at Sydney Uni," Gibson said

"Part of his reintroduction is around we feel he is doing the necessary work, he's doing his throwing and he's played consistently. We have been pretty consistent with Roach and Fitzpatrick so we feel this an opportunity for him to contribute and show what he can do."

With solid form, Latu will be in the mix for June with Jordan Uelese, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Fitzpatrick, Anaru Rangi and Folau Faingaa.

Damien Fitzpatrick (second right) pops a pass against the Stormers. Picture: AFP
Damien Fitzpatrick (second right) pops a pass against the Stormers. Picture: AFP

"There is an opportunity there isn't there. I am not sure what Cheik's thoughts are but every hooker in the country would know there's an opportunity there, if you play well, you could potentially get that call. It is a good incentive for them," Gibson said.

Though Phipps has been a strong addition to the team when playing in the past two weeks, Gibson said the rotation back to Gordon was a plan they were sticking to.

"I talked really clearly at the start of this four-game block against New Zealand teams that that was what we are going to do, and we'll continue that. So that means Nick will come back in with us next week," he said.

Hanigan is expected to miss between "four and six" weeks with a knee injury and, in a dose of good news, Gibson said Jack Dempsey is also making good progress after a long and tortuous rehab following surgery on his hamstring tendon.

"It's still a long way for him but it's a really good move for him that he's showing progress in being able to rejoin parts of training," Gibson said.

"We are not holding on to that hope (of Dempsey playing this season). It's more about him getting back to full fitness."



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