Israel Folau commits for Rugby World Cup
August 29, 2013
Israel Folau rejected an offer to return to the National Rugby League © Getty Images
Folau, 24, rejected a lucrative offer from Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs to return to rugby league, saying: "I've really enjoyed my rugby experience so far. I've had the opportunity to travel and challenge myself all over the world. There's still a lot I can achieve in rugby and that really excites me.
"I've had a great experience with the Wallabies. We've got a young squad and a great coach and we're building our game. We're only going to get better. The Rugby World Cup is definitely a draw card. To be a part of that would be an awesome experience, but that's still a long time away and we've got a lot to achieve in the meantime."
Folau praised Michael Cheika, saying the New South Wales coach had played a major role in influencing his decision to re-sign for the Waratahs. "I have a really good feel about him as a person and also as a coach," Folau said. "Michael [Cheika] has been a very positive influence for me, next year is going to be exciting and I want to be a part of that."
Greg Growden assesses the importance and of Israel Folau' decision to remain a rugby player instead of heading back to rugby league%]
More than anything, however, Folau said that he had made his decision because he was enjoying rugby union and saw plenty of improvement in his game after one year. "There were a few options. I guess I had to weigh up a few things, but at the end of the day I was really enjoying the rugby,'' he said. ''There is still a lot more improvement and things I need to tick off in rugby and that's the reason I have decided to go on for another two years.''
Folau does not take for granted his involvement in Rugby World Cup 2015, saying: "''If I am playing good rugby two years down the track, hopefully I can be a part of that. I am just focusing on the rest of the year and playing the games that are left with the Wallabies."
Israel Folau is a try-scoring machine for the Wallabies, if and when team-mates give him the ball © Getty Images
Folau, a rugby league star with Melbourne Storm, Brisbane Broncos, Queensland and Australia, has been outstanding in his first year of rugby after failing as a player with Greater Western Sydney in the Australian Football League He was a standout player for the Waratahs in Super Rugby, being named Australian Rookie of the Year, and he has impressed with three tries from five Tests for the Wallabies.
Folau played 14 games for the Waratahs before being handed his first Wallabies jersey, against the British & Irish Lions, and he has continued his development under new Australia coach Ewen McKenzie in the team's first two Tests of The Rugby Championship against the All Blacks.
McKenzie said Folau had made the transition to rugby with surprising ease and would continue to develop with more time in the game.
"Every week we're finding more and more ways to use his unique skills," McKenzie said. "There's unlimited potential, he's got a lot of really good attributes. He's enigmatic, he just does things a bit differently and it allows us to use him in different ways. There wasn't so much a question mark about whether he would be able to make the transition, it was more about how long it would take and he's certainly done it faster than most."
Cheika said: "Israel Folau has had an incredible first season of rugby and to have him re-sign for a further two years with so many people in the market for his signature makes us extremely pleased. "Israel is a quality player and a quality person, and having this type of man playing in our team is only going to help us achieve our goals over the next two seasons. His contribution to his team, both on and off the field, has been invaluable and the potential for him to become one of the most influential players in the game over the next two years is a truly exciting prospect."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd with AAP
Download ESPN's new UK multisport app, a fresh and powerful new way to follow your favourite UK sports news, scores and video.