Beating Toulon more important than scoring tries for Latu
WEEKEND’S FIXTURE: Stade Francais hooker Tolu Latu said he had been “lucky” to score four tries this season and that what he most wants from Sunday’s trip to Toulon is a French Top 14 victory.
Latu, 27, who won the last of his 19 Australia caps at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, trails the league’s top-scoring forward, France’s hooker Pierre Bourgarit, by two tries.
Latu has scored all his tries from rolling mauls and says they are the product of teamwork.
“It’s all the boys in front. I’m just at the back taking the credit for it. For me when I score those tries it’s more of a forward pack try,” he told AFP this week.
“I’m just the lucky one that gets my name on the score sheet.”
Latu is in his second campaign at Stade Jean-Bouin after joining following Australia’s quarter-final defeat by England in Japan.
Last term was turbulent for Stade. Coach Heyneke Meyer resigned in November with the club struggling. They were still bottom when the season was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic in March. Former Argentina fly-half Gonzalo Quesada then took over as head coach.
“Compared to how we were going last season there’s a lot of improvement,” Lotu said.
Under Quesada, Stade are eighth but one point behind Bordeaux-Begles in the last playoff place with a game in hand.
“He’s definitely changed the culture and the way the group is with each other. He’s brought an attractive brand of rugby for us to play. It suits the players we have in the squad,” he added.
Despite a Test absence of more than a year, Lotu hopes that Australia coach David Rennie will recall him.
The hooker acknowledges he is at a disadvantage playing in France and faces competition from of Folau Fainga’a, Connal McInerney, Brandon Paenga-Amosa and Jordan Uelese who were in last year’s Tri Nations squad.
“I haven’t spoken to Dave Rennie but I’d love to,” said Latu.
“With the rules and stuff and the depth Australian rugby has at hooker I don’t think they’ll be bringing back any foreigners to fill in that position.
“It’s a team I always want to be a part of. If the opportunity comes up I would take it with both hands.”
The Parisians beat Toulon by one point in an emotional home match days after the death of Stade’s former winger Christophe Dominici.
They head down to the Mediterranean coast seeking a first away victory since October.
“We need to bring that same intensity that we brought that night. It was an emotional night after the great Dominici passed away. We have to bring the same energy for 80 minutes,” he said.
“I’d definitely take a win over the try. For myself I wouldn’t mind scoring, but if I get both then that would be a bonus.”
Elsewhere, South Africa’s Rugby World Cup winner Cheslin Kolbe could return from a hand injury as Toulouse travel to Agen.
On Friday, La Rochelle host Bayonne in their first match since closing their training ground due to Covid-19 cases among their squad.
Fixtures (all GMT)
La Rochelle v Bayonne (19.45)
Racing 92 v Bordeaux-Begles (14.15), Clermont v Castres, Agen v Toulouse, Montpellier v Lyon (all 17.15)
Pau v Brive (13.45), Toulon v Stade Francais (20.05)