By his own admission, Israel Folau needs to take the blinkers off. In his Super Rugby debut last Saturday night for the Waratahs, the destructive ball-runner was well contained by the Queensland Reds who rushed up on him before he had a chance to wind up.
Folau admitted on Wednesday that his scrappy display at fullback – that included some fumbles and poor positioning in defence – had taught him a lesson in his newest code.
That is, he can’t rely solely on his damaging running game that made him an Australian rugby league international at the age of 18 and that passing and kicking options can no longer be an afterthought.
He will look to utilise the kicking skills he allegedly learnt during his ill-fated AFL career and also add subtlety with a passing game – as early as Friday night against the Melbourne Rebels.
“The Reds put a lot of pressure on me,” Folau said after training.
“I learnt a lot from that game.
“I’ve just got to mix up my game with passing and other things instead of just trying to take things on on my own.
“I feel like there’s definitely a lot more space playing rugby but I’ve just got to weigh up my options a lot better.”
Folau said he needs to kick his habit of tucking the ball under his arm and looking to puncture the defence, although he will continue to back himself if the time is right.
“My first instinct is to take the line on with my attack,” he said.
“If the opportunity is there to kick I’ll take it. I’ve got to mix up my game.
“But I’ll back myself in taking the ball back as well.
“I was pretty disappointed about my personal performance (against the Reds).
“But now that’s done and dusted and I’m looking forward to this week.”
Waratahs coach Michael Cheika said there was no temptation to move Folau to the wing for the Rebels match.
“He himself would say he was only at half tilt compared to what he can do,” said Cheika.
“He still beat a lot of defenders but not in the areas that we wanted to.
“He’s a consummate pro so I’m sure he’ll bounce back.”
Folau will be hoping to replicate his performance against the Rebels in a trial match in Hobart earlier this month.
With Wallabies coach Robbie Deans on hand, the 23-year-old crossed for two tries and off-loaded for another after turning down NRL suitors to play rugby union.