Hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau is in doubt for Australia’s Bledisloe Cup opener after suffering a knee injury in the NSW Waratahs’ Super Rugby final win.
The NSW Waratahs’ historic Super Rugby triumph came at a significant cost to the Wallabies, with hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau set to miss the Bledisloe Cup opener with a knee injury.
Polota-Nau limped off just after halftime in NSW’s tense 33-32 final win over the Crusaders with what Waratahs coach Michael Cheika suspected to be a medial ligament tear.
He will have scans on Monday and, although he was putting on a brave front and saying he remains hopeful of being fit for the Rugby Championship, Polota-Nau looks little chance of tackling the All Blacks in Sydney in 13 days.
With Stephen Moore ruled out for the year with a knee injury after being hurt two minutes into his first match as Wallabies captain, Australia will lose a total of 141 Tests of experience if Polota-Nau is also scratched.
Such a scenario would likely thrust two-Test reserve Nathan Charles into the Bledisloe Cup cauldron.
The Western Force No.2 and Queensland James Hanson are the back-up hookers in coach Ewen McKenzie’s Rugby Championship squad that will assemble in Dubbo on Monday for the start of the Bush2Bledisloe country road tour.
While Crusaders captain Kieran Read, the All Blacks’ reigning world player of the year, played down the relevance of NSW’s stirring victory as any type of Bledisloe pointer, Waratahs and Wallabies star Adam Ashley-Cooper said an Australian side winning the Super Rugby title could only help.
Ashley-Cooper noted how the Wallabies won the Tri Nations title for the first time in a decade with success over the All Blacks in the series decider in Brisbane after the Queensland Reds beat the Crusaders in the 2011 Super Rugby final.
“I think (we’ll gain) a lot of confidence,” Ashley-Cooper said.
“We had a pretty successful year with the Wallabies post the Reds championship and I’d like to think we could do something similar with the Wallabies this year off the back of what the Waratahs have achieved this year.
“I think across the board a lot of the Australian teams have done extremely well this year and it’s probably been our best year to date from an Australian rugby perspective and off the back of that you look at form and we’re sitting nicely.
“But then to respect the All Blacks, they are the best team in the world and we’ve got a huge challenge ahead of us.”
Asked if the Waratahs’ win had set the scene for an exciting trans-Tasman series, Read told Australian reporters: “I’m sure you guys will make a big deal out of that and there probably already has been.
“But it’s completely different teams.”
Long-time All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, who conceded the penalty that enabled Waratahs five-eighth Bernard Foley to slot the match-winning goal in Saturday night’s epic final, said he was hurting too much to start thinking about gaining redemption in the Bledisloe opener at the same ANZ Stadium on August 16.
“But I guess there is a bit of silver lining in that we get another crack back here,” McCaw said.
The All Blacks have held the Bledisloe Cup since 2003.