Alex Mafi has been called into the Wallabies training camp.. Picture: QRU
Alex Mafi has been called into the Wallabies training camp.. Picture: QRU

Rookie running Red hot with Cup chance

LOOSE cannon Tolu Latu may just have signed his World Cup exit papers at the same time young Reds hooker Alex Mafi has burst on to the Wallabies' radar.

The uncapped Mafi, 22, was one of the fresh faces on Sunday ushered into a three-day familiarisation camp for 41 prospective Wallabies in Brisbane.

Significantly, he leapfrogged Brandon Paenga-Amosa into the squad just as his strong form has kept his four-Test teammate on the bench for Queensland.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is interested to find out what makes the 107kg Mafi and NSW winger Cam Clark tick.

In-form flyhalf Quade Cooper is a worthy inclusion.

Folau Faingaa and Jordan Uelese are the other hookers in camp while 89-Test warrior Tatafu Polota-Nau is still to return from English club Leicester.

Mafi had an eye-catching game in the 40-32 loss to the NSW Waratahs at Suncorp Stadium last Saturday.

Cameron Clark of the Waratahs (right) tackles Alex Mafi. Picture: AAP
Cameron Clark of the Waratahs (right) tackles Alex Mafi. Picture: AAP

It wasn't just being dexterous enough on the wing to catch the Matt McGahan crosskick for a try but taking it on the right running angle to beat the last defender.

His lineout throwing is a tick and his mobility to back-up for a 25m gallop would have produced another five-pointer but for a superb trysaving tackle by Clark.

Latu has had influential moments in his 12 Tests but almost as many brain explosions.

He was baited into a costly face push and yellow card in the Test against the All Blacks in Yokohama last October, just three weeks after another yellow for punching in Argentina.

That ill-discipline is a risk with so many sudden-death games at a World Cup.

Tolu Latu has a long history of ill-discipline on the field. Picture: Getty Images
Tolu Latu has a long history of ill-discipline on the field. Picture: Getty Images

That's the underlying worry to his arrest and charge for drink driving and not informing his NSW Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson.

He was withdrawn from the Brisbane camp and told to fly home to Sydney where he will meet Rugby Australia's Integrity Unit on Monday.

Gibson said he was disappointed to hear about the Latu situation so late on match day.

"I was very surprised to learn about it so close to the game," he said.

Gibson said there might have been a bit of "owing the boys" to Latu's big scrums late in the game that earned key penalties.

"Possibly … I'm sure there are some things he needs to say to the team," Gibson said.

News Corp Australia


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