The rugby world will take a special interest in what Israel Folau does on Saturday night at Allianz Stadium against the Sunwolves.
Especially at Waratahs kick-off time.
Folau was suspended last week against the Rebels following a witch-hunt in the Test against Ireland for ‘clawing’ with Peter O’Mahony in an aerial battle for possession from the kick-off.
O’Mahony was stretched off after falling heavily.
Haven’t any rugby administrators ever seen an AFL game? Or haven’t they ever heard of the old saying, ‘watch the big men fly’?
So far this AFL season there have been a staggering 22,709 marks, averaging over 90 a game.
Get the message rugby, a total of 22,709 marks have been awarded this season with a massive number of markers climbing up an opponent’s back to reach great heights.
More often than not, the marker falls heavily, or awkwardly, but that’s the physical penalty for success.
The Folau suspension was laughed at in AFL circles, which begs the question: does World Rugby want to stop Folau being the undisputed best aerial rugby footballer on the planet?
But no-one will ever convince me, and many others, that the one-match suspension, which was the equivalent of being belted with a wet lettuce leaf, wasn’t a witch-hunt. Especially as the suspension coincided with the Waratahs’ most critical clash of the season, with the Rebels.
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That the Waratahs took care of the Rebels without both Folau and the hamstring-injured Michael Hooper spole volumes for NSW’s bottle.
The Australian conference front-runners go in against the lowly Sunwolves at Alliance on Saturday night and complete the regulation Super Rugby rounds with the Brumbies at the same venue on Saturday week.
The Rebels remain the closest rivals for the automatic play-off qualification afforded the conference winner, and they have the Reds at Suncorp and the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium next week to complete their schedule.
The Tahs have 39 competition points, the Rebels 35, but NSW are the only Australian franchise in credit on for and against, with plus 69, while the Rebels are the next best, with minus one.
The Waratahs have scored the third-most tries this season in the whole tournament, with 58, behind the Lions’ 71 and the Crusaders’ 64.
All those stats are vital in the overall, but the big picture has Israel Folau firmly in the frame.
Will he chance it to go aerial at kick-offs? I reckon he will, because he’s the best in the business by the length of the straight.
And it’s time for officialdom to drag itself into the 21st century.