Wycliff Louis Palu
- 812Wallaby Number
Wycliff Palu’s quiet and unassuming demeanour off the field belied a player who became one of the most feared and offensive tackling No.8s in the game. For the majority of his international career Palu was easily the premier powerhouse backrow forward in the Wallabies’ arsenal.
Although he was one of a select group of Australians to attend three Rugby World Cups (2007, 2011 & 2015), he was also plagued by injury. For his first RWC Palu had to overcome a shoulder injury just to make it onto the plane. In 2011 he was forced to make an early exit from the tournament due to a hamstring injury.
Unbelievably the 2011 story repeated itself four years later. One single statistic defines how much time Palu lost to injury. It took Palu the best part of eight years to win his 50th Test cap during which time the Wallabies played 111 Tests.
Sydney-born but of strong Tongan heritage, Palu - cousin of Wallaby #797 Mark Gerrard - attended Balgowlah Boys’ High School however he did not represent nationally at either schools or aged levels. Palu made his New South Wales debut in 2003 against Samoa in Sydney before he made a one season switch to rugby league with the famous St. George club.
Palu returned to the Waratahs in 2005 and the following year made his Test debut against England in Melbourne. He went on to accumulate 58 Test caps over an eleven year Wallaby career and was the run-on XV No.8 in 50 of those Tests. In his final international, the 2016, 2nd Test against England in Melbourne, Palu somewhat fittingly equalled Toutai Kefu’s Australian record of 58 caps at No.8.
Palu won his first Test cap off the bench when he substituted Rocky Elsom in the 2nd Test, 43-18 victory over England in Melbourne. His first start at No.8 came in the 2nd Test, 20-18 win over South Africa in Sydney. He totalled nine caps for the season.
Palu earned eight Test caps and scored his first Test try in the 29-23 victory over Wales in Sydney. He was selected in the Wallaby squad to the Rugby World Cup and started four games during the tournament, against Japan, Wales, Fiji and England.
Palu was capped 11 times over the course of the Wallabies’ 14 Test season.
He missed six of the opening eight Tests of the year but returned to play in each of the final six matches.
Palu was ruled out for the year after he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee playing for the Waratahs against the Crusaders.
He missed the Wallabies’ Tri-Nations title victory but found himself in the squad for his second Rugby World Cup. Palu played two games in the tournament but was sent home after he injured his hamstring in the pool game against the U.S.A.
Palu played in each of the three home Tests against Wales before a shoulder nerve injury, suffered during the last game of the Waratahs’ season, saw him miss the entire Rugby Championship. He returned to play in the 3rd Test, 18-18 draw with New Zealand and then made his only Spring Tour of the decade (he missed 2010 and ‘11 and would go on to miss 2013 & ‘14). He was capped in each of the season’s final four internationals.
Palu started at No.8 in each of the three Tests against the touring British & Irish Lions but missed the rest of the season after it was revealed that he required surgery to repair a torn cartilage in his troublesome right knee.
Palu was selected at No.8 in five of the year’s opening six Tests but was told to take an extended break for the game after he suffered concussion symptoms in the 1st Test, 24-23 win over South Africa in Perth.
Palu won three caps in yet another injury disrupted season. He was selected to his third Rugby World Cup but was sent home mid-tournament after he suffered a hamstring injury against Uruguay in Birmingham.
Palu would play just one Test, off the bench in the 2nd Test, 8-23 loss to England at Melbourne, in his final season of international rugby.