Australia
Israel Folau signs three-year flexible deal with ARU
ESPN Staff
July 1, 2015
Israel Folau commits to Waratahs and Wallabies

Wallabies star Israel Folau will remain in Australian rugby until at least the end of 2018 after signing a flexible three-year contract with the Australian Rugby Union.

Folau confirmed the deal at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon (AEST), telling reporters there was still plenty he wanted to achieve in rugby. The Wallabies full-back will continue to play his Super Rugby with the Waratahs, and will look to supplement his income in Japanese rugby.

The flexible portion of the deal is still to be finalised but it appears Folau will head to Japan after this year's Rugby World Cup, making it unlikely he will switch to Sevens ahead of the Rio Olympics next year; something that had been previously mentioned as a component that may help keep him in the game.

"There was a number of things I had to consider to make this decision and first and foremost it was how I felt on the footy field," Folau said. "Obviously I really enjoy playing the game and hence why I decided to go another three more years. Just overall, as a package, on and off the field, has been great for me and the community have embraced me a lot. And that's something that I've really enjoyed; so I'm looking forward to continuing that over the next three years."

Folau is the third player to be granted a flexible deal following those offered to Wallabies team-mates Bernard Foley and Ben McCalman. Foley has been granted two years in Japan while McCalman secured just a solitary season in Asia. Folau's pulling power could potentially see him granted three overseas stints, although that would raise concerns over burnout.

Israel Folau will remain in Australian rugby for the next three years © Getty Images
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"There's nothing that's official yet in terms of that flexible contract, in terms of going overseas," Folau said. "But my management are working through it at the moment; I think my priority was to make sure that both my Waratahs and my ARU stuff was sorted first before looking at that."

Fellow code-hopper Sonny Bill Williams has recently flagged his intention to switch to Sevens in time for next year's Olympics while Liam Messam is another Super Rugby player likely to turn out for the New Zealand. Folau said he hadn't really investigated a switch to Sevens, saying he was more than happy playing the full version of the game.

"In terms of playing Sevens, I haven't really thought into that process yet," he said. "Like I said I just enjoy playing the 15-man game at the moment; just the company I have within the Waratahs and also the Wallabies is something that I really enjoy. So I'm looking forward to that."

Israel Folau says he enjoys the company at both the Waratahs and Wallabies © Getty Images
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Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said Folau's signature was an important step for the game, revealing he had to dodge another Israel at the family home.

"I've had a bit of the inside running in the way that I think, this time, it's been a very professional negotiation," Cheika said of what had been a lengthy contract process. "I think that Israel's management team has kept us in the loop the whole time; it's been a very honest process; we've known what options there are; we've talked things through in detail around player welfare. All the small details; that's probably why it's taken a little bit of time. But I suppose I've known the intent has been there for a little while; so it was pretty easy to stay quiet about it.

"I think one of the big things for me - obviously, yes, on the field, that's fantastic to have a player like him playing with us - but I see my own kid driving me mad running up and down the corridor pretending to be Israel Folau...and I think that's really important for the game that we have guys that young kids want to get out and watch the game, and then want to be like when they grow up."

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