The biggest test in Australian rugby since the 2011 Rugby World Cup is about to dawn. That’s right folks, I speak of course of the British and Irish Lions tour.
Could it have come at a bigger time? For an Australian team with everything to prove, with one of their best players out, the answer is probably not.
Selection is always a talking point when it comes to Lions tours, but one of the bigger talking points when it comes to selection this year will be Israel Folau.
His enormous talent is no secret, but so far it has not been fully on display. Perhaps this discussion will become irrelevant closer to the tour, but for now, whether Folau should play against the Lions is up in the air for him to leap up and grab.
While Folau has not yet shown his full potential in the 15-man game, there’s no reason he won’t in months to come.
Folau has a great natural leap, as well as brilliant strength close to line.
Skills developed in his two-year stint with the Giants such as a good kicking and catching ability will also come in handy in a rugby union backline, especially a future Wallabies backline, featuring the likes of Jesse Mogg, James O’Connor, Quade Cooper and Kurtley Beale.
There is no doubt Folau has the tools to be a revolutionary outside back for the Wallabies. He also has experience of test match pressure, capping for the Kangaroos seven times in his league career.
Folau unquestionably has all the tools to be a star in union. We just have to wait for it to happen.
Oh, how many times the above has been said, but not fulfilled. Not to mention the potential Izzy had in Australian rules that went to waste when the club gave up on him.
But one of the cruel facts of life is that sometimes things don’t always work out, which could easily be the case with Folau with rugby.
He hasn’t shown a whole heap through his first few games, and if the trend continues, there’s no reason for him to be dressing up in the gold later on in the year.
And of course, to throw an inexperienced rugby player into his first Wallaby test against the British and Irish Lions could easily spell disaster.
While the Lions dominant power comes mainly through their pack, the skill of Leigh Halfpenny, experience of Brian O’Driscoll and kicking kicking prowess of Jonny Sexton could easily debunk Folau.
No-one is doubting Israel Folau has the makings to be the superstar in union he was in league. He has great size, speed and hand and foot skills, but his breakdown play needs to improve, as does his confidence.
If he can manage this in time for the Lions’ tour, he will give the Wallabies a skillful edge seen by the likes of James O’Connor and an in-form Quade Cooper. Let’s hope things go to plan.