Tatafu Polota-Nau's return from injury is a timely boost for Australia ahead of their match against Argentina on the Gold Coast, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
The hooker has recovered from the knee injury he sustained in the Super Rugby final and will earn his 50th Test cap on Saturday.
The Wallabies No 2 jersey has been cursed this season. Stephen Moore ruptured knee ligaments early in the first Test against France in June, and that was followed by injuries to Nathan Charles, Tolu Latu, Siliva Siliva and Heath Tessman. When Tessman was ruled out of last Saturday's match against the Boks, and Saia Faingaa left the squad to attend the birth of his first child, coach Ewen McKenzie was forced to call up 33-year-old Brumbies hooker Josh Mann-Rea, who was an unused replacement in the 24-23 win.
Polota-Nau strengthens the Wallabies scrum, which was embarrassed by the All Blacks in Auckland and sent backwards on two occasions by the Boks in Perth, resulting in two penalties. They could battle again on Saturday against a Pumas pack that dominated South Africa in Salta and held its own against New Zealand in Napier.
If the Wallabies can achieve parity at scrum time it will allow them to unleash their dangerous backs, including Israel Folau and Tevita Kuridrani. The Pumas have no such game breakers and will rely heavily on their big men to stay in the contest.
The Wallabies and Pumas have both made three changes to their starting lineups.
Apart from Polota-Nau's return, Ben McCalman replaces Wycliff Palu (concussion) in the gold No 8 jersey and Peter Betham comes in for Adam Ashley-Cooper (neck) on the wing. For the visitors, Juan Imhoff and Manuel Montero replace Horacio Agulla and Lucas González Amorosino on the wings respectively, while Matias Alemanno starts at No 5 lock in place of the suspended Tomas Lavanini.
The Pumas have not beaten the Wallabies in Australia since 1983, but have come close since joining the Rugby Championship, with a 23-19 defeat on the Gold Coast in 2012 followed by a 14-13 loss in wet conditions in Perth last year. If it rains again on Saturday (there is a 50% chance) Argentina will really fancy their chances of finally getting the job done.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Wallabies 16, Pumas 4, Draw 1
In Australia: Wallabies 10, Pumas 1
POLOTA-NAU'S STATS THAT MATTER
49 – The number of Test caps he has earned since making his debut against England at Twickenham in 2005
22 – The number of Tests he has started
67 – His winning percentage with the Wallabies
2 – The number of Test tries he has scored
Wallabies – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Peter Betham, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Sam Carter, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 James Slipper.
Subs: 16 James Hanson, 17 Pek Cowan, 18 Ben Alexander, 19 James Horwill, 20 Scott Higginbotham, 21 Matt Hodgson, 22 Nic White, 23 Kurtley Beale.
Argentina – 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Juan Imhoff, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Juan Martín Hernández, 11 Manuel Montero, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, 6 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 5 Matías Alemanno, 4 Mariano Galarza, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Subs: 16 Matías Cortese, 17 Bruno Postiglioni, 18 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 19 Benjamin Macome, 20 Rodrigo Báez, 21 Tomás Cubelli, 22 Jerónimo De la Fuente, 23 Lucas González Amorosino.
Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images