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Hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau has re-signed with the Australian Rugby Union, and the NSW Waratahs for a further two years.
Polota-Nau is the latest top player to recommit to Australian Rugby and the Wallabies for the period beyond this year’s Rugby World Cup.
The retention of Polota Nau is another boost for the future, with the robust hooker considered a player of huge potential who has the ability to dominate the international stage as a leader amongst the new generation of players who have been developed in the Wallabies environment over the past three seasons.
Polota-Nau said he hoped for many more Tests in the gold jersey.
“I love playing for the Wallabies and hopefully my form will continue to allow me to do that for at least another two years,” Polota-Nau said.
“Once I knew I was staying in Australia, my preference was always to remain at NSW and thankfully I’ve been able to do that.”
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans acknowledged that Polota-Nau was a key signing.
“Tatafu is an X-factor player. He’s one of those players who has a massive influence, both on a game, but also on the people he is around,” Deans said.
“His promise was always evident. That is highlighted by how much top level Rugby he played as a youngster, but sometimes it can take time to fulfil one’s potential totally, and truly believe, and ‘Taf’ probably fell into that category of player to some extent. He’s not exclusive in that. We’ve also seen it recently in the case of Kurtley Beale.
“The exciting thing, from a Wallabies – and I’m sure a Waratahs – perspective, is that he is really grabbing the reins now. You only have to look at the impact he has had on the Waratahs start to the new Super Rugby campaign, after winning their Player’s Player award last year. Not only is he playing well, he’s offering leadership to the rest of the group. That is a sign of the complete package he is becoming.
“He’s offered the same with the Wallabies. Even when he couldn’t play last year due to the issue around his ankle, he was happy to pitch in and help out as a coach, offering guidance to the younger hookers in the squad, both during the June Tests but then again when he joined us at the end of the Spring Tour.”
Despite damaging his left posterior cruciate ligament in Friday night’s match for the Waratahs, Polota-Nau said he won’t change his ‘wrecking-ball’ approach on field – even with the World Cup looming in September.
“There’s no point holding back when you’re on the field, you have to give it everything you can, even with a World Cup this year,” Polota-Nau said.
“My main focus at the moment is Super Rugby and helping the Waratahs have a big season, I’ll continue to prepare week in and week out as normal.
“As far as the injury goes, it’s much better that it’s the PCL rather than the ACL [anterior cruciate ligament].
“It’s going to be a day-to-day proposition and so the bye couldn’t have come at a better time.”
Polota-Nau is a cult figure in Sydney’s western suburbs where his work both within the team but also at an administrative level with the Parramatta Rugby Club has received wide acclaim.
Born in Sydney but of Tongan family roots, which has enabled him to connect with the city’s sizeable Pacific Island community, Polota-Nau joined a rare club when he made his debut for Australia prior to playing Super Rugby, against England at Twickenham in 2005.
Co-captain of the 2003 Australian Schools side just two years after he had taken up the game as a 16-year-old at Granville South Creative and Performing Arts High School, Polota-Nau was recruited into the Brumbies Academy programme for two years in 2004, before returning to Sydney to join the NSW Waratahs in 2006.
An Australian Under-21 representative in each of 2004 and 2005, while also attending the Under-19 world championship in 2004; Polota-Nau was a standout performer at his second Under-21 world championship.
His performance not only won him inclusion in the Qantas Wallabies squad for that year’s Spring Tour, it also saw him later crowned as the 2005 World Under-21 Player of the Year by the International Rugby Board.
A consistent presence in the Qantas Wallabies since that time, Polota-Nau begins 2011 with 25 Tests to his name, while having represented the Waratahs on 69 occasions in Super Rugby, and 70 matches all-told.