Tatafu ready to confront Ireland
November 15, 2013
Tatafu Polota-Nau has not yet worn the gold jumper in 2013 © Getty Images
Tatafu Polota-Nau will be nervous when he makes his long-awaited Wallabies return against Ireland at Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Saturday after a horror season riddled with injuries.
Polota-Nau broke his right arm to miss the British & Irish Lions series then hamstring problems struck twice to deny him starts as Australia floundered in The Rugby Championship. He says he feels like he's gone back to square one as a rugby player, after six months without a game, but he'll have no time to ease his way back off the bench against a confrontational Irish pack in front of a capacity 53,000-strong Dublin crowd.
"It's quite nerve-wracking actually; it's like learning how to walk again really," he said.
Polota-Nau started at No.2 when Australia last played Ireland at Rugby World Cup 2011 in Auckland, where the brash young Wallabies outfit was upset 15-6 in an Eden Park ambush. The Irish pack dominated the scrum, won the collisions and beat the Wallabies at the breakdown, and Polota-Nau is on red alert for the same level of physicality when he replaces Stephen Moore in the second half on Saturday.
"The only way to combat that is by being physical a lot more," he said. "It's like 'how do you beat a bully?'. You go face to face with it. You don't shy off or go around it. They will look to really dominate the breakdown, and a massive focus for us will be the breakdown."
Former Wallabies captain Simon Poidevin once described Ireland players as "skilled lunatics" at home at Lansdowne Road, and the current tourists expect a similar level of commitment. To prepare for the threat, the Wallabies tore in at 100% intensity in a "full noise" no-holds-barred contact session in training in Dublin this week.
Moore has been an ironman for the Wallabies this season, but Polota-Nau's inspirational power game was sorely missed in both the 2-1 Lions series loss and the five losses to the All Blacks and Springboks.
"The frustration of missing out on the Lions was quite big, but I'm not the sort of guy that dwells on what if ... it's more what I can do now," Polota-Nau said.
The time for tinkering is over - England must nail their colours to the mast in key positions, writes Phil Vickery
"New Zealand-born Joe Schmidt has forged the Irish into a street-smart, well- prepared side," John Mitchell on the Irish renaissance
"I am bored of hearing 'I can't fault the effort'. Let us take that for granted and look for some quality." John Taylor writes
Reports comparing the 2014 Wallabies with their rabble-like predecessors of 2005 are unfair and self-serving, Greg Growden reports