BLAKE Austin has tipped Warrington Wolves’ forgotten man Leilani Latu to make a big impact when the Super League season resumes.

The Tongan international prop signed from Gold Coast Titans ahead of the 2020 campaign, but failed to make a first team appearance for the Wire before rugby league was suspended by the coronavirus pandemic back in March.

While the 27-year-old did feature for Wolves’ reserves and on dual registration at Widnes Vikings, Latu was not selected by head coach Steve Price due to fitness issues.

Warrington Guardian:

But star man Blake Austin says that his teammate has returned to training in top condition and has the ability to become an important player in primrose and blue.

Asked about how the club’s strength in depth will be tested over the remainder of the season and amidst the introduction of the six again rule, the half said: “Strength in depth has been important in years gone by, I think it adds to the gap between some of the clubs in this league.

“I think a rule change like this will only add to that, so I hope that we can have a product every week that’s evenly contested and that we don’t see too many one-sided affairs.

“But we’ve got some really good guys on the edge of our squad.

“Ellis Robson is one who has impressed me since I’ve been here, he’s chipped away for a couple of years and he’s a really honest hard worker.

“Then you’ve got the likes of Danny Walker – the rule changes could help someone like him a lot.

“Leilani Latu hasn’t been sighted in a Warrington jersey yet, but I don’t think anyone used the time off better than him – he’s come back in wonderful shape and I’m really excited to see what impact he can have on the season.

“On his day, Leilani is the best of both worlds – he’s a very destructive runner, but he has soft hands too.

“He’d be the first to admit that he probably wasn’t in the best shape on day one, but to his credit he’s been really honest with himself and nobody has turned up again in a more impressive physique than him – I think he can really add something for us.”

As a creator and a strong runner, Blake is someone who will relish the introduction of the six again rule – but only if player welfare is not compromised.

Warrington Guardian:

Blake Austin celebrates after scoring the winning drop goal for Wolves against Castleford

The Great Britain international added: “It’s going to come down to the teams who can adapt quickest to the new rules.

“You don’t want to be on the wrong side of those six again calls or you’re going to have a tough night at the office.

“On paper, it should benefit us.

“I’m a ball running five eighth, so the more fatigue we can put into the opposition the better.

“Time will tell, but I think it will be great for the fans and it’s going to add some excitement – and hopefully us players can come out of it on the other side unscathed.

“I’m pretty big on the welfare of myself and everyone I play with, so as long as there’s not a major injury toll on the back of it I can only see it as a positive thing for the game.”

And while the 29-year-old enjoyed time with the kids and in the kitchen during lockdown, the self-confessed ‘rugby nerd’ is happy to be back on the training paddock.

Warrington Guardian:

Austin training during lockdown

He said: “The boys were all glad to be back, it was pretty surreal

“Four months away is a timeframe that none of us have ever experienced before, because even between seasons we only get about eight weeks away.

“I’m a pretty big rugby nerd, so I was pretty nervous about how I would cope.

“But it was the time of my life, I got to spend every second of every day with my four kids and they enjoyed having dad home for four months as well.

“I learnt many life lessons on the way too, learning to enjoy the smaller things – when the sun’s out and what a difference that makes, daily walks with the family, a few financial lessons.

“I’ve also done a little bit of cooking in the kitchen, which I’ve done zero of in the past 10 years.

“I think there were a hell of a lot more positives than negatives for me.”