(Photo: Getty Images)
By Neale Harvey
Australia hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau has revealed why he is happy to put his Test career on hold in order to spearhead a Leicester revival.
82-time capped Polotau-Nau, 32, admits being part of the Tigers team that failed to make the play-offs for the first time in 14 years hit him hard.
However, the former Waratah aims to make amends by helping to chase down champions Saracens – a task he likens to climbing Mount Everest.
Polota-Nau told The Rugby Paper: “Leicester didn’t finish as we’d wanted, which was painful, but I now understand what we must improve to get to the next level.
“Watching last week’s final, Saracens are setting standards in terms of doing the basics and then getting the ball wide that we must aspire to and then better.
“We didn’t make enough of our chances last season, both in attack and defence, and there’s a lot to work on in terms of playing what’s in front of us.
“But now we’ve experienced not making finals rugby, we realise what we must do and it’s a bit like climbing Everest or K2; the end goal is the Premiership and seeing the quality of Saracens, that’s a big driver for us wanting to lift that trophy.”
Having been stood down by Australia for this month’s Ireland series, Polota-Nau has vowed to sacrifice playing in this year’s Rugby Championship as well if it provides Leicester with a better chance of restoring their lost aura of invincibility.
He explained: “I’ll definitely enjoy these next few weeks off because at my age the travel takes a massive toll on your body. You try to take the correct measures but it’s important that I rest and re-set myself going into pre-season here.
“Stephen Moore retired last year and I’m probably not too far off myself now, so it will give Michael Cheika the chance to look at some younger hookers, but next year’s World Cup is still massive for me and I want to be at my best.
“I’m not sure about the Rugby Championship yet, but if anything I’ll just look to ensure my body is right and my focus is fully on Leicester. The start of the season is very important and I’m looking to be involved here for the whole year.”
Polota-Nau believes the Tigers experience will enhance his World Cup prospects.
He added: “In hindsight, I wish I’d come earlier. The crowds in England are really intense and playing at a packed Welford Road is unbelievable.
“We’ve got to make sure it’s a fortress next season and we need consistency from the start, not to be playing catch-up like we did this season.
“I’m looking for a big year at Leicester and then I can get back for the World Cup and, hopefully, help Australia turn things around as well.”