Folau set to debut at fullback for Waratahs

By Ben Horne,

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    Israel Folau has revealed he’s spent most of his NSW pre-season training at fullback as the Waratahs weigh up throwing their star recruit straight into the key position.

    Folau says he doesn’t yet have a preference on where he lines-up during Super Rugby, but believes playing in the No.15 shirt during Waratahs trial matches is the best way for him to get a handle on rugby.

    The cross-code convert seems certain to at least get a run at fullback during the Waratahs’ opening trial against Melbourne in Hobart on Saturday night.

    Coach Michael Cheika hasn’t decided on the make-up of his back three for the season proper, but wants all the candidates to be as adept at fullback as on the wing.

    Cheika is desperate for attacking weapon Folau to see as much space and quality ball as possible, and combined with his excellent skills under the high ball and kicking ability, fullback might prove to be his best position.

    Folau isn’t making any bold statements but agrees with Cheika that time at the back will give him a speedy education on the intricacies of rugby.

    “I feel fine with that (fullback). I’ve been training most of the time at fullback so it doesn’t feel any different and I’m looking forward to the challenge on Saturday,” said Folau, who never played fullback in the NRL.

    “We’ll see how we go in trial games but at this stage I actually have no preferences.

    “Fullback is probably the best way to learn and like Cheik says, you can see everything unfolding in attack. There will be a lot of space so that will be good.”

    Ruck work shapes as one of the biggest adjustments for AFL defector Folau, however Cheika says his star signing seems “comfortable” with that area of the game.

    Cheika named a 28-man squad devoid of most of his Wallabies for the first hit-out against the Rebels – with Test stars likely to return in time for the third and final trial against the Crusaders on February 14 at Allianz Stadium.

    The new coach wants to see combinations develop and for Folau to feel relaxed and free.

    “My biggest thing for him is to let him have the space and enjoy himself and not get too beat up about it all,” Cheika said.

    “He should have a good time. There’s no competition points on the line at this stage so I want guys to get a good hit out and not get too carried away by it all.”

    Meanwhile, Cheika has called on the ARU to throw their weight behind the Waratahs’ bid to hold onto lock Sitaleki Timani.

    The Wallabies powerhouse has reportedly agreed to join French club Montpellier at the end of the year, however Cheika said it might not be too late to change Timani’s mind.

    “I know we’ve put everything we can into our offer … we’re mindful of the salary cap … and the way the contract system is at the moment it’s going to be up to the ARU to do the best they can,” he said.

    “No one has shown me a piece of paper where he’s signed on the dotted line.

    “It’s very important for us to maintain locks of Sita’s quality in Australia. I’m not saying that to play politics, it’s the truth. I’d love to keep him.”

    Waratahs trial squad: Michael Alaalatoa, Richard Aho, Kotoni Ale, Ollie Atkins, Peter Betham, Wayne Borzak, Tom Carter, Cam Crawford, Israel Folau, Bernard Foley (vice captain), Grayson Hart, Michael Hodge, Luke Holmes, Rob Horne, AJ Gilbert, Tom Kingston, Matt Lucas, Brendan McKibbin (captain), Tolu Latu, Dane Maraki, Elijah Niko, Greg Peterson, Jeremy Tilse (vice captain), Lopeti Timani, Peter Samu, Will Skelton, John Ulugia, Ben Volavola.

    © AAP 2018
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    The Crowd Says (38)

    • January 30th 2013 @ 4:54am
      mania said | January 30th 2013 @ 4:54am | ! Report

      imo this is the best position for him. glad he’s going for it instead of being eased into it and hidden out on the wing.
      cant help but think tho his skills under high ball, offensively is on wing, when he can challenge in the in goal area from a cross kick.
      whats his tackling like will be a big factor.
      wow Sitaleki maybe leaving?!?! bummer

    • January 30th 2013 @ 7:14am
      Ajax said | January 30th 2013 @ 7:14am | ! Report

      With Sitaleki leaving, the ARU has to change this policy about not picking blokes who dont play S15.. we dont have the luxury of having 3 or 4 ready made replacements like the Kiwis do…

      Excited to see how Folau goes, and Im a Reds fan 😉

      • January 30th 2013 @ 11:12am
        Football United said | January 30th 2013 @ 11:12am | ! Report

        This, such an archaic law and eventually it’s going to backfire bad on the aru. European rugby is pulling away financially very quickly and soon, the appeal of euro contracts and playing in europe will be that much more than salary capped ARU contracts and ‘maybe’ playing for the wallabies if one of deans favorites is injured.

      • January 30th 2013 @ 1:14pm
        Justin2 said | January 30th 2013 @ 1:14pm | ! Report

        The guy is hardly irreplaceable!

        The ARU has to keep the best players here and that is a mechanism to do so. If they are go offshore then our Super sides will get flogged, crowds will disappear and it will be very difficult to line up form with players scattered all across the globe.

    • Roar Guru

      January 30th 2013 @ 7:56am
      B-Rock said | January 30th 2013 @ 7:56am | ! Report

      If Sita wants to go, let him go, No use begging and pleading. He is a quality player but you need to want to be here.

      Our locks aren’t too bad at the moment with Horwill and Douglas ahead of him for me. Saying that, we could really use the depth.

    • January 30th 2013 @ 8:03am
      nickoldschool said | January 30th 2013 @ 8:03am | ! Report

      Eager to see Folau at FB but still have big doubts about his kicking game, vision and one on one defence. No question the guy is quick over + 50m but he is also fairly heavy and maybe not quick footed enough to defend against fast, elusive wingers coming at him at full speed. On their wing, the Habanas, Janes etc would side step him pretty easily i reckon. Again, we havent seen him play so he might have gained in sheer speed what he lost in strength.

      For me, he is a more natural outside centre/wing though.

      • January 30th 2013 @ 8:13am
        mania said | January 30th 2013 @ 8:13am | ! Report

        nos – beales not the greatest tackler and he makes do. but i agree its still a worry. any team that figures out that he cant tackle will be targetting him all day.
        in NRL he was pretty absent on defence but awesome attacking high ball in the in goal. i guess it depends on how much he learnt @ AFL in regards to positioning for high ball and how well he counter attacks. i imagine folau must have a kicking game by now after a stint in AFL.
        anyway it cracks me up how much hope is being put on his shoulders. he’s a rookie and should be rgarded as one. SBW didnt really make an outstanding contribution till his final year with the chiefs. before then was still behind nonu. folau has a long way to go and i dont expect him to perform till a least his 3rd season

        • January 30th 2013 @ 9:59am
          nickoldschool said | January 30th 2013 @ 9:59am | ! Report

          True mania. If Cheika gives him the nod at FB I hope he will ask him to give it a real shot and play boldly. No need to have him as a lame full back when you have a LaCie turner for example.

          Heard AFL was coming to welly to promote the game! You reckon kiwis will be keen?

          • January 30th 2013 @ 10:14am
            mania said | January 30th 2013 @ 10:14am | ! Report

            nick – aussieRulz is a cult sport here and its been played here for over 10 years maybe 20. first i knew of it was losing some of my gridiron players to it back in 1997 -98.
            i dont think it’ll be everything the AFL are expecting or as bad KPM predicts.
            so i reckon here will be a following of hard core supporters but i doubt that it will convert very many ppl from other sports. much like football.
            league back in my day was a cult sport in the 80’s and its grown so much faster than aussieRulz has.

            ps – we call it aussieRulz here, what do u guys call it? it cant all be called AFL can it? thats the comp not the actual game.
            pps – aussieRulz at school also meant that there are no rules and its fuill contact.

            • January 30th 2013 @ 11:20am
              nickoldschool said | January 30th 2013 @ 11:20am | ! Report

              As a neo-Aussie I call it afl, aussierules or even just footy. ‘real’ Aussies particularly vics might give it another name tbh, dunno. Was in welly last w-e and ppl I talked to weren’t keen on the game and reckon It won’t gain too many fans, maybe as a one of gala sort of game like the st kilda one but not that many.

              I saw that the sevens guys had landed in the city too! Was told it wasnt sold out yet!? Reckon it will be if the weather remains like that! Wild w-e ahead in the capital!

              • January 30th 2013 @ 11:39am
                mania said | January 30th 2013 @ 11:39am | ! Report

                yeah i seriously doubt AFL can crack it here. theres no buy in from kiwi’s except for a few hard cores that play it. we have aussieRulz post near where i live but i’ve never seen anyone train there, b ut they go up every summer.
                7’s is going to be epic this weekend. already the focus on costumes has been in articles for the last couple of weeks. weather is awesome at the mo. i’ll be working it so hopefully everyone has an awesome time as usual with no trouble

            • Roar Guru

              January 30th 2013 @ 1:31pm
              jeznez said | January 30th 2013 @ 1:31pm | ! Report

              I call it Aussie Rules or AFL but I think the aficionados call it football and get in big fights with the soccer fans over the rights to the name.

              • Roar Guru

                January 30th 2013 @ 1:39pm
                Jiggles said | January 30th 2013 @ 1:39pm | ! Report

                I don’t know how they could claim the world ‘football.’ One is a global game played by billions, the other is a park game played in one city. Lets be honest, people from Melbourne are for the most a bit weird.

              • Roar Guru

                January 30th 2013 @ 2:10pm
                jeznez said | January 30th 2013 @ 2:10pm | ! Report

                Careful if we talk too much about it they’ll find us and have their code war argument all over again. On reflection I think they specifically go for Footy. In the meantime I am waiting for the Footaroos to officially change their name. 🙂

              • Roar Guru

                January 30th 2013 @ 2:17pm
                Jiggles said | January 30th 2013 @ 2:17pm | ! Report

                Gosh, Footaroos does not sound good at all.

              • Roar Guru

                January 30th 2013 @ 2:20pm
                jeznez said | January 30th 2013 @ 2:20pm | ! Report

                well apparently it isn’t called soccer

        • Roar Guru

          January 30th 2013 @ 10:32am
          Rabbitz said | January 30th 2013 @ 10:32am | ! Report

          This:
          “beales not the greatest tackler and he makes do.”

          Is why NSW have done nothing in the last few years.

          Near enough is NOT good enough, especially when your competition are uncompromising and, frankly, better than you.

        • January 30th 2013 @ 1:16pm
          Justin2 said | January 30th 2013 @ 1:16pm | ! Report

          Prefer to have a weak defender out the back than in the front line…not that we know if thats the case with IF.

        • Roar Guru

          January 30th 2013 @ 1:29pm
          jeznez said | January 30th 2013 @ 1:29pm | ! Report

          mania, is there that much hype though? Of course there will be the odd crank who thinks he’ll be the second coming – most comments I read are looking at his potential and hoping he’ll be good.

          The most hype is coming from him and the Tahs but I think on his part he is just answering questions – would you like to represent the Wallabies against the Lions? – why yes I would but first I need to try and nail a starting spot at the Tahs, etc.

          On the Tahs part, he is a marketing tool and generating column inches.

          Assuming Mitchell, Turner, Kingston, Betham, Ashley-Cooper, Barnes and Foley are fit and all capable of playing in the back three there are loads of options there (even if three of them will probably play between 10, 12, 13).

          I think he will play a bit this year but will be pleasantly surprised if he locks down a starting berth and is making good (not outstanding) contributions by season’s end.

          I agree with your comment that I’m glad they are pointing him at a position rather than easing him in off the wing.

    • January 30th 2013 @ 8:11am
      Red Kev said | January 30th 2013 @ 8:11am | ! Report

      S.Timani going to France? I saw that Dan Palmer had also signed with a French club for after the Super Rugby. Short term pain as that is a lot of scrum power leaving these shores, but if they come back it could be a good thing long term – there’s no better place to improve the set piece than European rugby.

      • January 30th 2013 @ 11:42am
        nickoldschool said | January 30th 2013 @ 11:42am | ! Report

        Still a loss for the wallabies though. Quite a shame that a SR team coming off a promising season can not keep a young player with potential who , at 24, prefers to sign for a mid-table team like Grenoble (nothing against them).

        • Roar Guru

          January 30th 2013 @ 1:35pm
          jeznez said | January 30th 2013 @ 1:35pm | ! Report

          Palmer made an odd decision leaving the Tahs just as Baxter retired and now is leaving the Brumbies – I suspect partially because Alexander has confirmed he is a THP rather than a LHP.

          The guy is already the best THP scrummager in Oz, I’m sure playing in France would improve him but the biggest thing the guy needs to do is get his mobility and general play improved and get his body right so he isn’t always injured. Not sure playing in France rather than in Super Rugby is going to help fix that.

          • January 30th 2013 @ 1:39pm
            kingplaymaker said | January 30th 2013 @ 1:39pm | ! Report

            jeznez the threat of Palmer/Timani both leaving is bad.

          • January 30th 2013 @ 1:44pm
            jameswm said | January 30th 2013 @ 1:44pm | ! Report

            Palmer left a year before Baxter retired, however he must have known that this was imminent. I wish he’d stuck it out, but then Paddy Ryan’s doing well.

            You need 3 good props in your S15 squad, which for the Brumbies is surely Alexander, Palmer and..ummm…(checking)…Sio or Murphy. So question marks over 3rd prop. NSW have by far the best group of 3 props (Robinson, Kepu and Ryan).

            I would have thought Alexander plays where the team tells him, though he’s without doubt a better TH right now. The Force and Rebels would kill for a TH like Palmer, and even the Reds could use him. Slipper at TH is hardly a scrum anchor. Their other two props (Daley and Holmes) are mainly LHs. In fact Qld should release one (Daley I’d say) and take Palmer.

            • Roar Guru

              January 30th 2013 @ 2:18pm
              jeznez said | January 30th 2013 @ 2:18pm | ! Report

              Ryan is doing well and with Tilse in the wings on the LHP side the Tahs are very well served. Their 5th prop is where it gets a bit questionable but even there Ulugia is passable considering he is a hooker playing out of position.

              I think the Force front row is good – particularly with the fitness gains that Ma’afu has made. Brumbies are well served with Murphy being very capable at LHP.

              Completely agree with your assesment at the Reds where they are lacking on the THP side.

              Rebels are in the most strife up front, they will be hoping Weekes and Henderson can form a viable pair but would kill for the likes of Palmer, Ryan or Tilse instead. They have another hooker in Sexton coming from Leinster next year and will be hoping their new shotputter or Alo Emile will develop.

          • January 30th 2013 @ 2:13pm
            Justin2 said | January 30th 2013 @ 2:13pm | ! Report

            Jez they were my thoughts around Palmer too. His scrummaging is already good it is his mobility, speed and other general pay that needs work.

            I hope he can find improvements in those areas in France, I suspect S15 would have been better for that.

            Regardless I hope he comes back after a year and gets a crack at the next wc.

    • Roar Guru

      January 30th 2013 @ 12:41pm
      B-Rock said | January 30th 2013 @ 12:41pm | ! Report

      15 will be a challenge for Izzy, I have no doubt his basic skills are good enough, its the mental aspect that will be tough.

      He obviously wont have the innate feel for the position to make sure he is there for cover in defense or reading ahead a few phases to be prepared for the high ball. Even little things like knowing when to attack and when to clear it after receiving a kick. You can get yourself into all sorts of problems without this experience at SR level, which of course he is not expected to have after a few trials.

      Much safer bet to start on the wing but I guess he can move there with minimal fuss if he looks lost at 15.

      Saying all that, after a year or two I think he could challenge KB for the WBs 15 jersey if he sticks around. Similar type of players – looking forward to seeing Izzy in running in broken play and under the high ball in attack.

      • January 30th 2013 @ 1:02pm
        Jutsie said | January 30th 2013 @ 1:02pm | ! Report

        My thoughts exactly, i dont know much about league so havent seen alot of izzy but i do follow footy a fair bit and he didnt appear to have the peripheral vision and understanding of where to position himself whilst playing for the giants. I think those are two skills that are also required when playing 15 in union so I doubt his ability to succeed in this position. I think wing and possibly centres in the future would be his better bet.

        • Roar Guru

          January 30th 2013 @ 2:45pm
          B-Rock said | January 30th 2013 @ 2:45pm | ! Report

          Much easier to understand the angles in union than in afl though.

          We will all need to have patience (including Izzy himself by staying more than 1yr) as he will make plenty of bone headed mistakes in the split second he has to make a decision.

          I don’t think 13 is an option as:
          – its far too demanding physically and mentally in defense – far too complicated for a rookie at this level. We all remember Tahu get carved up by the boks @13 – he was never the same after that
          – his skill set (aerial, open running, kicking) is not appropriate for a modern 13, particularly one playing for RD where a crash ball 13 is preferred. He would be wasted in attack.

          I would stick him on the wing as it would minimise the risks and make best use of his skills. Most importantly though he can’t get shifted around too much – he needs to develop in 1 position.

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