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Veteran Wallabies hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau admits he’s in catch-up mode and has questioned his ability to match the standards of his younger rivals as he strives to regain a Test starting spot.
The 33 year-old 82-Test stalwart, who made his international debut back in 2005, has rejoined the Wallabies squad after missing the June series against Ireland.
He was resting up after a full year of Super and Test rugby in 2017 followed by half a season with English club side Leicester.
After enjoying sipping cappuccinos in an uncharacteristically long hot English summer, Polota-Nau has returned to Australia to add his considerable frame and experience to the Wallabies forward pack.
Polota-Nau watched with admiration from afar as young hookers Brandon Paenga-Amosa and Tolu Latu grabbed the opportunities his absence afforded them, by aiming up against Six Nations champions Ireland.
Asked if it had been a case of Wallabies coach Michael Cheika chasing him to be available for the Rugby Championship starting later this month, Polota-Nau said: “from my own perspective, it was more so a question of if I’ve still got it.”
“Watching the June series over there I started questioning myself if I could keep up with the pace here, because the boys played a tremendous series against Ireland.
“You look at the likes of Brandon and Tolu – they both really stepped up.
“Even watching the trial game (last Friday) seeing Folau (Faingaa) running out there.
“To be honest I’m questioning why I came back because they are really setting a high standard for me to come back to.”
The former NSW Waratahs and Western Force hooker plunged back into the Wallabies training environment on Monday as they started their camp at Cessnock in the Hunter region of NSW.
“I think all the boys have shown what they’ve done previously and I’m just playing catch up really,” he said.
“The first day was a tough day at the office for me, but I can only get better.
Wallabies officials remain confident captain and openside flanker Michael Hooper will be available for the match against New Zealand in Sydney on August 18.
Hooper hasn’t played since injuring a hamstring early in the final Test against Ireland in mid-June.
Winger Dane Haylett-Petty (knee) and prop Scott Sio (shoulder) are the only fitness concerns less than two weeks out from the game.
Backrower Pete Samu, who made his Test debut in the Ireland series, will join the camp on Wednesday, after getting a short break following the Crusaders Super Rugby final win over the Lions in Christchurch.