When Tolu Latu gets to start a Super Rugby game, one person he will be grateful to besides the coach who selects him will be Waratahs hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau.

The 22-year-old Tongan-born Latu, who was a forklift driver before pursuing a full-time rugby career at the Waratahs last season as Polota Nau’s understudy, has become a student to all that the 50-Test-capped veteran can teach him.

The 112kg and 178cm Sydney University rake knows any call-up to the starting side by coach Michael Cheika could come with little or no notice.

That has been the case playing off the bench – often when Polota-Nau has left injured as he did against the Rebels in round two after a head knock.

For now, Latu says he knows any selection will hinge on Polota-Nau being injured: “It’s always tough going up against ‘Taf.’ He is a world-class player.”

Asked if Polota-Nau’s head knock from a hit by Rebels forward Lopeti Timani in round two might raise hope of a start against the Reds in Brisbane on Saturday, a smiling Latu said: “I’m just trying to get the things I’m doing right … to knuckle down. ‘Taf’ always has a little niggling problem somewhere.”

But if or when the moment happens, Latu says he will be ready – and will thank Polota-Nau for that.

“I haven’t played under many hookers with Taf’s experience. He has been a big help for myself,” Latu said.

Pressed to elaborate how Polota-Nau has specifically helped him, Latu said: “Probably in adapting to Super Rugby … from club level it is quite a big step up … [Also] probably with coping and adapting with playing and training [full-time]”.

As for his time on the bench, Latu uses it to prepare for his time on the field by “trying to see where I can improve on in my areas – like watching ‘Taf’ and if he is getting to certain places and making sure I have my game knowledge down pat”.

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