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 @ 1:09pm
      kingplaymaker said | January 30th 2013 @ 1:09pm | ! Report

      Folau looks like a wing more than a full-back and he would be able to appear for cross-kicks far more effectively there. Maybe it doesn’t matter at this early stage.

    • January 30th 2013 @ 1:42pm
      Terry Kidd said | January 30th 2013 @ 1:42pm | ! Report

      If the tea leaves read as they appear to be falling then I think we can safely name the starting Tah backline …. McKibbin, Foley, Barnes, AAC, Mitchell, Turner, Folau with Hart and Betham on the bench.

      I do not want to see Timani go, I want him playing for the Tahs and the Wallabies, however it is reported that he will earn 10 times playing in France than he can earn here and he has signed for only one year. So the possibility is that he could play one year in France and return.

      Maybe he needs to buy his Mum a house?

      • January 30th 2013 @ 1:47pm
        jameswm said | January 30th 2013 @ 1:47pm | ! Report

        10 times? So $2-3m a year in France? Maybe you mean triple?

        I like that backline, though I’d go with Hart ahead of McKibbin. Horne and Kingston not mentioned.

        • January 30th 2013 @ 2:15pm
          Justin2 said | January 30th 2013 @ 2:15pm | ! Report

          The Australian was reporting 10 times his salary. Find that impossible to believe unless they are talking about his base only which maybe possible if they were just talking his ARU base? and not S15 coin?

          If they are paying him upwards of $2m then the joke is on the Frogs 🙂

        • Roar Guru

          January 30th 2013 @ 2:29pm
          jeznez said | January 30th 2013 @ 2:29pm | ! Report

          Terry, I agree 9, 10, 11,12, 15 and 21 look likely to fall out that way but Horne and Kingston will be in the mix as well and 13/14/22 still have quite a few permutations.

          James, I prefer Hart as well but they are reporting that McKibbin is potentially the new captain – given a few of his tactical brain snaps – kicking the ball away against the Reds in round 1, anyone? That does make me nervous.

          Pleased to hear Timani is only a one year deal – although I too hope he doesn’t go at all, saw Cheika putting it on the ARU in the paper today saying the Tahs offer was as large as it can be under the salary cap.

          • January 30th 2013 @ 7:48pm
            Blinky Bill of Bellingen said | January 30th 2013 @ 7:48pm | ! Report

            jeznez – I thought it was just me who puzzled with McKibbin named as Captain. I’ll never forget ‘that kick’ that saw Qld take the biscuits and stall our season.

            Surely it’s a one off. Maybe it’s a case of give him enough rope?

            Given that it’s trials I’m hoping to see loads of combinations tried and tested. IMHO we really need to sort out that 9/10 combination or our season will never leave the starting blocks.

            Hart impresses me at 9 and if Foley doesn’t get a run at 10 I’ll be stonkered. A Hart and Foley combo could be just the thing to get our back line firing.

        • January 30th 2013 @ 3:39pm
          Terry Kidd said | January 30th 2013 @ 3:39pm | ! Report

          It was reported as 10 times James. Lol, and no “carthorse” in the backline either.

          • January 30th 2013 @ 3:47pm
            jameswm said | January 30th 2013 @ 3:47pm | ! Report

            I’m no fan of Carter either, but I think the team wins more when he’s there.

            I can’t believe they extended the contract of Carter and kept McCutcheon. There’s two squad spots wasted. They should have kept Alcock way ahead of McCutch. And a club centre ahead of Carter, or a top level imported 10/12.

            It can’t be 10 times – Timani can’t be on as little ad $80K at the Tahs – or being paid $2-3m in France. I’d certainly go to France for that sort of coin if I was him. Who wouldn’t?

    • Roar Guru

      January 30th 2013 @ 1:42pm
      Jiggles said | January 30th 2013 @ 1:42pm | ! Report

      TImani is no loss and it will force Dingbat to pick a lock who actually has locking skills rather than a bloke that looks like Tarzan and plays like Jane. I think he is the most overrated player since Tom Bowman.

      Palmer on the other hand is a huge loss, I dont get that one at all.

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