Waratahs Tolu Latu has lost his place in the Wallabies squad and has been called in front of the Rugby Australia Integrity unit after getting caught drink-driving.
With the Waratahs still reeling in the wake of the Israel Folau saga, the news of Latu’s charge on last Thursday night was only broken to them on Saturday afternoon by the Daily Telegraph newspaper.
Latu was reportedly found “slumped” behind the wheel of a car on Thursday and charged with driving under the influence after allegedly recording a blood alcohol reading of 0.135.
Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson and chief executive Andrew Hore confirmed they were unaware of the incident until contacted by the Daily Telegraph on Saturday afternoon, just hours before they played the Reds, and it is understood Latu did not inform Rugby Australia either.
Latu was due to remain in Brisbane to attend the Wallabies’ pre-World Cup camp but a Rugby Australia statement said the 26-year-old had been sent back to Sydney.
“Wallabies and Waratahs hooker Tolu Latu has today returned to Sydney and will not participate in the national training camp in Brisbane,” the statement said.
“Latu will meet with Rugby Australia’s Integrity Unit as well as New South Wales Rugby CEO Andrew Hore on Monday. The matter is still under investigation.”
Speaking on Saturday night, Hore would not say whether calls had been made to New South Wales police to confirm whether Latu had been charged and was facing court.
“We were made aware today by the Telegraph around the incident and we’ve got to look into that and there’ll be a process put in place to investigate the issue,” said Hore.
“I don’t know the facts… and that’s the point, we don’t know the facts yet and we need to look into that.
“At the moment, it was an article in a newspaper and we reacted.”
But Gibson was more forthcoming, saying it was disappointing he and Latu’s team-mates had not been informed until hours before the match.
“I’m pretty disappointed to only learn of it so close to the game,” said Gibson.
“It’s probably the disappointing aspect as a coach.
“Having that information earlier, would have made a far better, considered decision.
“But that’s all stuff that was out of our control.”
With the team not having another hooking option in Brisbane, Latu was allowed to play, with Hore saying checks had been made with SANZAAR and Rugby Australia first.
“We checked with SANZAAR and also Rugby Australia in and around the facts we did have and there was nothing that could clarify that it was a breach of (clause) 4.4 of the code of conduct,” explained Hore.
“As far as we’re aware, he’s an innocent man until there’s been a proper formal investigation.”
News of the incident broke in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph on Saturday afternoon.
But the reserve hooker was allowed to retain his place on the Waratahs’ bench for their vital Super Rugby clash against the Reds and took the field in the 67th minute, going on to play a crucial part in the match when he helped the Sydneysiders win a scrum against the feed late in the game to ensure victory.
Gibson would not buy into whether Latu’s key strike for the ball was in part to make up for letting the team down.
“Possibly. I’m sure there’s a number of things that he’ll need to say to the team,” Gibson said.
Hore cautioned against trying to connect Latu’s issue with Folau though.
“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.”