Visa delay and injury crisis could see Saints lock Lukhan face England in final Test

New Saints lock Lukhan Salakaia-Loto could be on the bench for Australia when they face England in a crucial third and final Test on Saturday.

By Tom Vickers
Monday, 11th July 2022, 12:44 pm
Updated Monday, 11th July 2022, 12:48 pm
Lukhan Salakaia-Loto
Lukhan Salakaia-Loto

With the Wallabies facing an injury crisis and Salakaia-Loto having endured a visa delay in his attempts to travel to England, a remarkable recall could be on the cards.

The 30-Test forward and winger Mark Nawaqanitawase have been called into the Wallabies squad to prepare for the series-decider at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

And according to Rugby.com.Au, the 25-year-old could even be named among the replacements just months after not being offered a substantial contract by Rugby Australia to stay in the country.

It was that decision that triggered Salakaia-Loto to sign a deal at Saints back in February.

And he has not played as much as he would have hoped since then as an ankle injury and non-selection for back-to-back games at his club, Queensland Reds, saw him prepare to head to England early.

The fact Salakaia-Loto was left out by the Reds in games against the Crusaders surprised many.

But he had no interest in talking about that in a recent interview.

“I can’t change what happened and I don’t have anything to say on it,” Salakaia-Loto said.

The imposing forward had not had any contact with the Wallabies when he discussed how determined he still was to play for his country.

“It’s definitely not over at 30 Tests," he said. "I want to be able to build a case for 31 and if that is from England that’s what I’m going to do.”

He hadn’t even really considered a potential call-up to face England.

“If something crazy happens, I’ll definitely be fit, super keen and ready,” he said.

Salakaia-Loto has recently played six club games for Souths in the Queensland Premier Rugby competition in a bid to stay sharp.

He played three games in eight days recently when the Souths played midweek to catch-up on a washed-out match from earlier in the season.

He smashed his way through five defenders to score one try against Easts in the distinctive No.19 jersey he has worn as a starter throughout his club stint.

The club didn’t have a No.4 jersey big enough for the physical 118kg giant, which is exactly how the Wallabies want him to play if needed.

Cadeyrn Neville (knee) and Darcy Swain (suspended) are out and Jed Holloway's injury status is uncertain.

Salakaia-Loto played nine Tests under Dave Rennie in 2020/21, he knows the Wallabies' systems and has valuable Test experience.

And this could be his moment to show coach Rennie he still has what it takes to be a Wallaby.

He might already have been on a flight to England to link up with Saints but for the time it is taking for a visa to be processed.

“The visa has taken longer than I thought," Salakaia-Loto said.

"I was told the visa might take six or seven weeks and the plan has always been to fly there as soon as I receive it.”

Wallabies legend Chris Latham is on the Souths’ coaching staff and gave Salakaia-Loto a ringing endorsement.

“Lukhan has really contributed," Latham said.

"He’s been a leader, a big calming presence and, on the field, his talk is always about the next job to be done."