Wallabies hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau has been playing through “as good as” a broken arm, coach Michael Cheika says, and won’t play another Test until it’s fully healed.
Polota-Nau was the surprise high-profile casualty from Cheika’s 30-man squad on Thursday for the Rugby Championship clashes against South Africa and Argentina.
The 31-year-old fractured his right arm for the second time while playing for the NSW Waratahs in March.
Despite playing through significant pain in the June Test window and the early part of the Rugby Championship, he’s still not 100 per cent, and after discussing the situation with Polota-Nau, Cheika said the best course of action was for him to stop.
“He’s as good as playing with a broken arm. His arm hasn’t mended properly,” Cheika told reporters on Thursday.
“He’s got the plate in there and he’s been really pushing hard and it’s a real credit to him because it’s been tough for him.
“But that’s enough now.
“Polota-Nau’s a player that we want. What he’s adding in games has been really vital for us and he’s a player we want in top condition going forward.
“His decision to either have a rest or operate or whatever it might be, we’ll make in the next couple of weeks and decide then what happens for him for the rest of the season.”
Polota-Nau’s understudy at the Waratahs, Tolu Latu, has joined the squad as his replacement and is one of two uncapped players, along with winger Sefa Naivalu, in line to become Australia’s 10th Test debutant this year.
Cheika said he would do everything he could to ensure Polota-Nau returned to Super Rugby “as soon as possible”, amid reports he’s agreed to a big-money deal with English Premiership club Bristol.
Veteran winger Drew Mitchell, lock Will Skelton and back-rower Ben McCalman have been left out of the side due to a lack of recent match fitness.
Mitchell will return to his French club Toulon, leaving Will Genia as the last remaining European-based Wallaby.
The Fiji-born Naivalu finally became eligible to represent Australia on Monday and Cheika said he was excited to see what he could offer the team.
“We’ve been going through a bit of a changeover in a few positions and the idea is that we’re going to build more depth,” he said.
Young prop Allan Alaalatoa is also in the mix after overcoming the medial ligament strain he suffered in Brisbane, although Cheika admitted it was “touch and go” whether he would be right to take on the Springboks in Pretoria on October 1.
The Wallabies face Argentina at London’s Twickenham Stadium a week later.
Wallabies: Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Adam Coleman, Quade Cooper, Kane Douglas, Scott Fardy, Israel Folau, Bernard Foley, Nick Frisby, Will Genia, James Hanson, Dane Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge, Michael Hooper, Sekope Kepu, Samu Kerevi, Tevita Kuridrani, Tolu Latu, Sean McMahon, Stephen Moore (capt), Luke Morahan, Dean Mumm, Sefania Naivalu, Nick Phipps, Tom Robertson, Rob Simmons, Scott Sio, James Slipper, Henry Speight, Lopeti Timani.