Latu will miss the Wallabies pre-World Cup training camp. Picture: Stuart Walmsley
Latu will miss the Wallabies pre-World Cup training camp. Picture: Stuart Walmsley

Cops find rugby star ‘slumped behind the wheel’

Update: Waratahs officials had to check with Super Rugby's governing body SANZAAR before letting Tolu Latu to play in Saturday night's win over the Queensland Reds after being blindsided by allegations that he had been charged with drink driving.

For reasons that have still not been explained, Latu did not inform his bosses that he had been charged by NSW police after allegedly recording an alcohol reading of 0.135 when he was found slumped ­behind the wheel in the early hours of Thursday morning.

Team officials only became aware after being contacted by The Sunday Telegraph, leaving them scrambling to work out whether the hooker would be allowed to play against the Reds.

"There will be a process that will be put in place to investigate the issue," NSW Rugby chief executive Andrew Hore said.

"We checked with SANZAAR and also with Rugby Australia in and round the facts that we did have and there was nothing that could clarify that it was in breach of point 4.4 of the Code of Conduct so as far as were aware he's an innocent man until there's been a proper formal investigation."

Latu played the last 13 minutes but is now under investigation with Rugby Australia confirming that the Rugby Integrity Unit is looking into the matter, meaning Latu will miss the Wallabies pre-World Cup training camp, starting in Brisbane on Sunday.

 

Tolu Latu in action for the Wallabies. Picture: Getty Images
Tolu Latu in action for the Wallabies. Picture: Getty Images

Hore said he did not know why Latu had not notified officials and under protocol, he wasn't able to ask him although head coach Daryl Gibson had briefly spoken with him before the match.

"Sometimes you don't understand what's going through a young guy's minds, you don't know whether he's trying to protect the team with another situation or whatever so we've got to get to the bottom of that and that is disappointing," Hore said.

"Of course Daryl talked to him today but even then you have to go through a formal process before you can do anything and that's the difficult part."

The timing could not be worse for the Waratahs and Wallabies after Latu's superstar teammate and close friend Israel Folau was fired for posting homophobic comments on social media.

Tolu Latu has been charged with drink driving after he was allegedly found “slumped behind the wheel”. Picture: Mark Evans
Tolu Latu has been charged with drink driving after he was allegedly found “slumped behind the wheel”. Picture: Mark Evans

The Waratahs have been at pains to talk down any hint of a rift in the squad over the punishment handed out to Folau and Gibson said this was another distraction for the team to deal with.

"It has been an emotional week, it seems like I say that every week," Gibson said.

"It is disappointing when any of our players behave in such a fashion. It's taken us by surprise and I've got to obviously ascertain all the facts and go from there."

Rugby officials issued a statement saying they were investigating the report.

"Rugby Australia and New South Wales Rugby Union have been made aware today by the Daily Telegraph of an incident involving Wallabies and Waratahs hooker Tolu Latu," the statement read.

"Rugby Australia's Integrity Unit is working with the New South Wales Rugby Union to ascertain all of the facts."

Witnesses called police about 4.30am on Thursday to report that a man was sleeping behind the wheel of a Mitsubishi Outlander on Cleveland St, not far from Rugby Australia's headquarters on Driver Ave in Moore Park.

It is alleged when police stirred him, Latu recorded an alcohol reading of 0.135.

Police will allege he was also driving on a ­suspended licence and will front Downing Centre Local Court on June 6.

Israel Folau was the latest star to be embroiled in controversy after posting material deemed vilification against the gay community. Picture: Matt King/Getty Images
Israel Folau was the latest star to be embroiled in controversy after posting material deemed vilification against the gay community. Picture: Matt King/Getty Images

"The last thing they need is something like that," former Wallabies captain George Gregan said on Fox Sports.

Two-time World Cup winner Phil Kearns said: "Maybe after the match a few of the boys might tell him what a moron he's been but in his actions, if that's true."

Rugby's image has taken a ­battering despite chief executive Raelene Castle saying the organisation was standing by its values and the qualities of "integrity, discipline and respect" in sacking Folau over the Instagram post.

Capped 12 times by Australia, the 26-year-old Latu's chances of making the Wallabies squad for this year's World Cup in Japan are now in serious doubt.

While he has been no stranger to controversy on the field, the drink driving charge is the first time the former forklift driver has been in publicised strife off the field.

His chances of playing for the Wallabies squad is now in serious doubt following the incident. Picture: Stuart Walmsley
His chances of playing for the Wallabies squad is now in serious doubt following the incident. Picture: Stuart Walmsley

He returned to training last month in the best shape of his ­career after a six-match ban for recklessly charging into a ruck in the round two win over the Sunwolves in Tokyo.

Fitter and leaner, he made his ­return off the bench against the Durban-based Sharks in Parra­matta in April and also played against the Lions in Johannesburg last week.

In 2015 Latu was slapped with a four-week ban for up-ending Canterbury Crusader Sam Whitelock.

In 2016 he had a one-game suspension for punching Matt Toomua and two years later during the Wallabies win over Argentina in Salta, he was sin-binned for hitting Santiago Garcia Botta. Another yellow card came his way weeks later during the final Bledisloe Cup match in Yokohama when he pushed All Black Codie Taylor in the face.

News Corp Australia


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