Australian rugby
Robbie Deans hails Israel Folau
April 20, 2013
The Waratahs' Israel Folau runs the ball against the Force, New South Wales Waratahs v Western Force, Super Rugby, Allianz Stadium, Sydney, March 31, 2013
Israel Folau continues to impress in a Waratahs jumper © Getty Images

Israel Folau can play almost anywhere in the Wallabies backline, such is the rugby league convert's class and versatility, Robbie Deans says.

A week after being included in a preliminary 30-man Wallabies squad ahead of the June series with the British & Irish Lions, Folau vindicated his selection with an eye-catching Man-of-the-Match display for New South Wales Waratahs against the Chiefs in Sydney on Friday night. Folau was in everything, capping his all-round display by leaping high to reel in a cross-field kick from Bernard Foley to bag a key try in the Waratahs' 25-20 Super Rugby defeat of the defending champions at Allianz Stadium.

"His aerial work is remarkable and that's an attribute that we'd love to have in the group because it's a big part of the game now, and it'll be a big part of the Lions' game obviously," Deans told AAP. "You can use it as an attacking strategy but defensively he diffuses bombs, and you've only got to talk to your forward pack to understand the value of that."

Folau also convinced doubters with a match-winning defensive effort on the ground, time and again pulling off try-saving plays as the Chiefs pushed hard for a second-half clincher after rallying back from 15-0 down at the break. The former Kangaroos winger and Greater Western Sydney Giants AFL experiment has been excelling at fullback for the Tahs, but Deans said Folau's long-term role would be "the position he chooses".

"He could easily come into the front line as well," the Wallabies coach said. "He could easily play outside centre, but his aerial skills are such that you probably want him under that. His background is more on the end of the line as a winger, but it doesn't concern me watching him play fullback because from fullback he has to consider touch to touch and goal-line to goal-line.

"So he'll come to gain a greater understanding of the game dynamics from fullback than he may have done playing on the wing all the time. So it's no loss really and he's showing that he's picking up on the detail. Obviously he's got a great capacity to carry the ball, but he also works for others well. He'll put others into space and provide opportunities for others, so he brings that with him naturally."

The Waratahs showed great spirit to defeat the Chiefs (video available only in Australia)

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