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All eyes will be on Israel Folau tonight

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4 days ago
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It’s common knowledge Israel Folau has yet to re-sign with Rugby Australia for next years World Cup.

It’s also a given that if the champion try-scoring fullback isn’t on duty in Japan, the Wallabies have none and Buckleys of being in contention.

So why would Wallabies coach Michael Cheika deliberately risk losing Folau by selecting him on the wing for the clash with the Pumas on the Gold Coast tonight?

Especially as Cheika openly rates Folau as his best custodian, and it’s Folau’s favoured position.

“Everyone knows how highly I regard him as a 15, but Dane (Haylett-Petty) played pretty well as his replacement (injured) last week, and I’d like to give him another opportunity,” Cheika explained.

“Just something different, shake it up a bit, and see how it goes,” Cheika added.

That’s like Australian captain Bill Woodfull on the 1934 cricket tour of England saying he’ll bat the world’s best Don Bradman at seven because some lesser light filled in admirably at three when The Don was injured.

Woodfull would have been certified on the spot.

Obviously, Cheika can correct his decidedly odd call during the Test tonight.

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However, the original selection shows scant respect for one of his best players.

And it’s not as if Cheika has a crash hot winning track record of just two from six this campaign, and a career 51 per cent from 51 Tests.

You’d reckon he would always pick his best players in their best positions.

Yet he’s prepared to switch his most prolific try-scorer on a flimsy whim despite winning the coveted John Eales Medal three times as a fullback.

Folau’s biggest asset is he sure knows where the white line is with 172 tries from 243 starts in both codes.

That’s broken up into 84 from 104 games of rugby league with the Storm, Broncos, Queensland Origin, and Kangaroos – and 88 from 139 games of rugby with the Waratahs and Wallabies.

Israel Folau Wallabies Australia Rugby Union 2017

(Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

He’s a priceless asset to both codes.

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There’s no doubt his marriage to Maria last year will play a major role in his decision for the future.

With rugby, he’s regularly on international flights with the Waratahs and Wallabies while rugby league offers far more home time.

In spite of where the 29-year-old ends up, rugby fans would feel a lot more comfortable about Israel Folau wearing gold in Japan next year if he is, in fact, wearing the 15 jersey tonight.

Of that, there’s no argument.