Hooker Tolu Latu appears likely to add to his four Test caps during the upcoming three-Test series against Ireland.
The rehabilitation of Tolu Latu continues after the Waratahs hooker was officially added to the Wallabies squad for the three-Test series against Ireland as a replacement for injured Melbourne Rebels hooker Jordan Uelese.
Latu has not been used at Test level since 2016, when he played four Tests for the Wallabies on the spring tour and since then he has been chided by both Test coach Michael Cheika and Waratahs boss Daryl Gibson to improve his work ethic. For a period this season, the 25-year-old Tongan could not even make the NSW bench.
Bit by bit, however, Latu has worked his way back into favour and even before Uelese damaged his anterior cruciate ligament in the Rebels’ match against the Blues on Saturday, he had been invited into camp with the Wallabies to assist with training.
Once Uelese was forced out of the squad with a season-ending injury, it came as no surprise when Latu was brought in as his replacement in the 33-man squad.
“He’s been out of favour at the Tahs for a lot of the year and he’s coming back into favour a little,” said Cheika.
“The two or three games he’s played, I think he has had a good impact and he has been excellent since he has been in camp.”
Latu will be the only hooker with Test experience in the Wallabies squad, with Brandon Paenga-Amosa of the Queensland Reds and the Brumbies’ Folau Fainga’a both uncapped. That is not likely to be the case for much longer for Paenga-Amosa who is the leading contender to fill the No 2 jersey when the Australian team is named today.
The Reds hooker has been a powerhouse for Queensland in Super Rugby this season and certainly he will provide the physicality that Cheika is looking for. There is no question that the Irish are preparing accordingly, and not just from Paenga-Amosa.
“A lot of the Leinster guys have had Michael Cheika as a coach and they know that he drives them pretty hard on the physical side of the game,” Irish scrum coach Greg Feek said.
“You know they’re going to come out and try to win some of those physical confrontations, so you’ve got that and you’ve got some massively X-factor players who can turn over the ball. If you don’t look after it, it could be seven points.”
The Irish will also name their Test team later today.