SYDNEY: Tolu Latu was Sunday withdrawn from a Wallabies training camp as he faces drink-driving allegations, with NSW Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson fuming that he only heard about the issue hours before a Super Rugby clash with the Reds.
The hooker was reportedly found slumped behind the wheel of a car in the early hours of Thursday morning in Sydney, but apparently did not tell his bosses.
The news only broke late Saturday, with Gibson upset that he was not made aware of the claims earlier.
“I was pretty disappointed to only learn of it so close to the game,” Gibson told reporters after the Waratahs edged the Reds 40-32 in a pulsating 10-try clash on Saturday.
“That’s the disappointing aspect as a coach. I’m sure there’s a number of things that he needs to say to the team.”
It is another unwanted distraction for the sport and the Tahs, coming just a day after their star fullback Israel Folau was sacked for homophobic comments.
The deeply Christian Folau, who posted on Instagram that “hell awaits” gay people and others he says are sinners, has 72 hours to appeal, with the case potentially heading to the courts.
Rugby Australia said Latu would return to Sydney from Brisbane and miss the training camp, part of the Wallabies build-up to the World Cup this year.
“Latu will meet with Rugby Australia’s Integrity Unit as well as New South Wales Rugby CEO Andrew Hore on Monday,” the governing body said in a statement. “The matter is still under investigation.”
Latu, 26, came off the bench to play against the Reds, with Hore saying he checked with Super Rugby’s governing body SANZAAR and Rugby Australia to ensure he was still eligible.
“As far as we are aware, he’s an innocent man until there has been a formal investigation. You have to be fair,” he told reporters.
“We went through all the processes. When you find out late in the piece, it makes it really tough.”
Latu, a friend of Folau’s, has only just returned from a six-week suspension for dangerous play and is seen as a contender for the Wallabies squad to play the World Cup in Japan.
Hore cautioned against trying to connect Latu’s issue with Folau.
“You can’t connect the two,” he said. “The complexity of case A (Folau) was pretty full on, so you’ve got to take each hurdle as it comes.”