While Israel Folau is an X-factor player that any side would die to have in their colours, the dumped star and the Wallabies did not gel.
Folau signed with the New South Wales Waratahs on the eve of the 2013 Super Rugby season after some underwhelming years trying his hand at AFL with the Greater Western Sydney Giants.
After the impression he made in his years playing in the NRL before that, the hype was that Israel Folau was the breath of fresh air that Australian rugby needed. And it started well.
Folau was impressive for the Waratahs and was deservedly selected on the wing for the Wallabies for their first Test match against the British and Irish Lions in 2013.
He dominated in his Test debut despite being up against highly regarded Welsh winger George North. And although the Wallabies lost the series 2-1, you couldn’t question the added impact that Folau provided for the Wallabies was second to none.
But Folau was best on the wing. He was the best winger in the NRL from 2007-10, and he was already the best winger in Australian rugby.
Michael Cheika took over the reigns as Wallabies coach in 2014, and Folau was no longer a winger, he was a fullback.
And suddenly, everyone was brainwashed into thinking that Folau was the only option to play fullback for the Wallabies.
But what happened to the old expression if it ain’t broke don’t fix it?
Folau always has been and always will be a ball-runner, and one of the best in the world at it. He is Super Rugby’s leading try-scorer of all time for a reason, but just because he scored a bulk of his tries from fullback does not mean that he was an effective No.15.
Folau was never capable of handling the added responsibility that came with playing fullback for the Wallabies.
When to pass, when to run, when to kick.
His role in the NRL was to run, and he should have had the same role for the Wallabies.
What was Jonah Lomu’s role for the All Blacks? What was Jason Robinson’s role for England? What was Brian Habana’s role for the Boks? To catch the ball and run.
When Israel Folau played on the wing for the Wallabies, he made his team-mates better. When he played at fullback for the Wallabies, he made his team-mates worse.
He didn’t possess the decision-making capabilities needed to fill such a position at an international level.
Folau was the perfect winger. When you think of Israel Folau’s Wallabies legacy, do you see a man who set up tries for his team-mates, or a man that scored them?
Israel Folau’s talent as a ball-runner was wasted in Australian rugby, and his lock on the fullback position poisoned the Wallabies.
Though his departure is unfortunate and controversial, the Wallabies will be a better team on the field because of it.