Greg Growden writes ...
Israel Folau now deserves Wallabies jumper
Greg Growden
May 6, 2013

Anyone connected with the Wallabies and the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) has in recent weeks been getting out the megaphone and screaming how much they love Israel Folau. The prime focus of this endless back-slapping is to convince Folau to stay in rugby union, with officials so mindful that numerous NRL clubs, in particular the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, are hovering. And Folau's early form in the rugby ranks was so lukewarm that statements made about him being the big Wallabies hope were immediately placed in the outlandish basket. But after Folau's South African adventure with New South Wales Waratahs, the spruikers at the ARU now don't seem to be so over the top in their comments.

Folau excelled against Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth, after performing creditably on the high veldt in Pretoria, showing he is at last comfortable in his third football code. His ability to control proceedings, and successfully take virtually every attacking opportunity offered to him, makes it impossible not to elevate him to our Australian Super Rugby Form XV.

There are four changes from the original Form XV last week, with Folau moving in at fullback for Jesse Mogg, Digby Ioane on Joe Tomane's wing, Dave Dennis taking over from Fotu Auelea on the blindside of the scrum, and Sekope Kepu replacing Dan Palmer at tight-head.

Who would you select if you were picking the Wallabies team for the first Test against the British & Irish Lions? Leave a comment at the foot of the page to join the conversation.

Until the British & Irish Lions arrive, we will update our Form XV each week - awarding those who repeatedly perform. We will each week also include what we expect the Wallabies selectors to pick for the first Lions Test. As you can see below, it is considerably different to the Form XV. Nothing new there.

While the Brumbies have been the standout Australian province, their inability to withstand the intensity of the Crusaders in Canberra on Sunday will work against their players when Wallabies selectors start getting serious about Test selections. The Brumbies scrum struggled - and that could easily dent Palmer's tight-head Test prop chances. The selectors are also bound to have second thoughts about Mogg. It is not entirely Mogg's fault, as he is following instructions, but opponents are now well aware of what he is going to do: boot virtually everything that comes to him; sure, he has attacking initiative, but there were times against the Crusaders when the pressure appeared to get to Mogg. There is a danger in pushing him too soon, because with refinement and time, he will be a formidable Wallabies player. Whether that includes a Lions appearance is debatable. That's why everyone should anticipate Kurtley Beale, not Mogg or Folau, at fullback for the first Test. Nonetheless, don't be surprised if you see Folau sitting on the bench against the Lions.

And for those who will quibble about James O'Connor being on the wing: you have to put him in the team somewhere because every side needs a reliable goalkicker, particularly one who has performed under pressure at Test level. Remember Hong Kong.

The Form Team: Israel Folau (Waratahs); James O'Connor (Rebels), Adam Ashley-Cooper (Waratahs), Christian Lealiifano (Brumbies), Digby Ioane (Reds); Matt Toomua (Brumbies), Will Genia (Reds); Scott Higginbotham (Rebels), George Smith (Brumbies), Dave Dennis (Waratahs); Rob Simmons (Reds), James Horwill (Reds); Sekope Kepu (Waratahs), Stephen Moore (Brumbies), Benn Robinson (Waratahs). Replacements: Tatafu Polota-Nau (Waratahs), Ben Alexander (Brumbies), Ben Mowen (Brumbies), Liam Gill (Reds), Nic White (Brumbies), Kyle Godwin (Force), Jesse Mogg (Brumbies).

Most Likely Test XV: Kurtley Beale; James O'Connor, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Pat McCabe, Digby Ioane; Quade Cooper, Will Genia; Wycliff Palu, George Smith, Scott Higginbotham;, Rob Simmons, James Horwill (captain); Sekope Kepu, Stephen Moore, Benn Robinson. Replacements: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Ben Alexander, James Slipper, Hugh McMeniman, Liam Gill, Nic White, Israel Folau, Christian Lealiifano.

Who would you select if you were picking the Wallabies team for the first Test against the British & Irish Lions? Leave a comment below to join the conversation.

© ESPN Australia / New Zealand

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