Returning prop Pone Fa’amausili is set to be a giant factor in the Wallabies’ crunch clash with Wales, literally and figuratively.
Missing big bodies Will Skelton and Taniela Tupou through injury for their must-win match in Lyon on Sunday (Monday AEST), Fa’amausili will make a timely return from a calf injury.
Weighing in at 130 kilograms and almost two metres tall, the Wallabies will look to Fa’amausili for some punch through the middle against the Welsh, a quality clearly lacking in their shock loss to Fiji last round.
The tighthead prop also offers surprising pace and balance for his size, with his Melbourne Rebels coach Kevin Foote once describing him as like a “hippo on ice skates”.
Fa’amausili had his first Test start in the Bledisloe Cup clash against the All Blacks in Dunedin earlier this year, which the Wallabies lost by three points, turning in his best performance in the gold jersey.
He was described this week by Wallabies scrum coach Neal Hatley as the biggest improver in the Australian squad, particularly as a scrummager.
“He’s our most improved player; for a guy who didn’t start regularly for the Rebels, to doing what he’s doing at the moment – it’s phenomenal,” Hatley said.
“His body’s changed, his whole attitude, his mindset how he approaches training.
“We can’t be more pleased with where he’s going and what’s ahead of him, not just this weekend but moving forward.”
Melbourne born and bred, Fa’amausili spent time in the youth rugby league teams at the Storm, Dragons and Panthers but admitted he wasn’t ready mentally to make the step up to the NRL.
He tagged along with a friend to trials for the Rebels’ under-20 side and before long Fa’amausili was playing for the Australian youth side.
He made his Super debut a year later in 2018 and hasn’t looked back.
He said he had leaned on Wallabies’ coach Eddie Jones and teammate Tupou to help him fulfil his potential as a Test player.
“Obviously, being a Test prop you’ve got to know your role, which is my set-piece, and I’m still new to this game,” Fa’amausili said.
“I’m only six years into being a professional and I come from a league background and scrummaging is not easy.
“Coming from league where they just pack down, with not really a technical side to it, to come to rugby and pick up being a tighthead, it wasn’t easy and I’m still learning.”2023-09-22T18:18:30Z dg43tfdfdgfd