Polota-Nau still a force

MELBOURNE – A transfer to an endangered provincial team in the rugby backwater of Perth has proved an unlikely catalyst for Tatafu Polota-Nau’s return to the Wallabies front row after an injury-plagued season.

After 11 successive campaigns at Sydney-based Super Rugby side New South Wales Waratahs, the veteran hooker was poised to sign for English side Bristol last year, looking to rejuvenate a career he felt had grown stale.

However, a lingering forearm injury not only scuppered that move, it ended his international season two months early and forced him into a hasty back-up plan.

Plan B was a one-year deal with the battling Western Force, a team several timezones away from rugby’s eastern heartland in Australia and one fighting to avoid being axed from Super Rugby.

The Australian Rugby Union has committed to cutting either the Force or the Melbourne Rebels as the 18-team competition contracts to 15 teams next year, saying it will help save the cash-strapped local game from going bankrupt while lifting the nation’s competitiveness across the board.

Polota-Nau says that axing the Force would be devastating for rugby in Western Australia, where Australian Rules football, the popular indigenous sport, tends to hog the headlines.

“If they axe the team it’s not ideal for rugby in Australia,” the 71-test hooker told Reuters by telephone from the Wallabies training camp in Newcastle, some 4,000 kilometres east of Perth.

“It’s just a shame we don’t get the same coverage that AFL (Australian Football League) does.

“It’s just about trying to keep the faithful and create more of a buzz for rugby to thrive because at a community level, it’s amazing to see how many juniors there are out there.”

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