Super Rugby showdown
Waratahs warn against Folau targeting
February 19, 2013
Israel Folau of the Waratahs takes on the defence during the Super Rugby trial match against the Crusaders at Allianz Stadium in Sydney on February 14, 2013
Israel Folau has shown strong form for the Waratahs across the trial matches and the Reds are wary. © Getty Images

New South Wales Waratahs say Queensland Reds will be targeting Israel Folau at their own peril, if they go through with a plan to bombard the cross-code superstar in Saturday night's Super Rugby blockbuster in Brisbane.

Coach Michael Cheika confirmed the prized recruit will start in his Waratahs debut at Suncorp Stadium in what shapes as the biggest derby match in years. Folau has looked impressive in the Waratahs' three trial matches, but Queensland director of coaching Ewen McKenzie has openly revealed a plan to attack the rugby novice.

Former NRL star Folau has plenty of big-match experience at the Suncorp cauldron and Cheika said his No.1 attacking weapon could prove a tough nut to crack.

"The amount of times I've tried to target blokes and it's been a waste of time at the end of the day because you never get to what you want to do," said Cheika. "I know Ewen is a very clever coach so, if one man can find a way, it'll be him. So we've just got to be ready to back him (Folau) up if they put him under pressure. We'll back him up and we'll back him to get out of any holes he finds himself in."

Cheika said Folau's pre-season form, after two years playing AFL, has astounded him.

"Positionally, he's worked himself out pretty well and he's looking for work," Chieka said. "He's got good numbers in the games too so I've been really happy with the way he's gone so far."

Cheika won't name his team until Thursday, with five-eighth options Berrick Barnes (knee) and Bernard Foley (ankle) in doubt with injury. The pair trained lightly on Monday and a decision could be made on their availability as soon as Tuesday based on how they pull up from the session.

Foley left with his ankle heavily strapped in ice and Barnes, considered to be in greater doubt, only ran briefly. Young Southern Districts product Ben Volavola is in line to wear the No.10 if Barnes and Foley can't prove their fitness. The one certainty is that Folau will be in the starting team, most likely at fullback.

Cheika said he was impressed with Queensland's aggression in their opening-round loss to the Brumbies and revealed he also wants his forwards playing in-your-face rugby. The new coach said it was about time his Wallaby-studded pack stopped living off their all-star reputation, and proved themselves on the field.

"Maybe that's what we've been thinking over the past few years, that we should dominate," Cheika said. "You only dominate when you go out there and do it. And the big thing for us will be it won't matter if you are a Wallaby or if you're not a Wallaby. This game is New South Wales versus Queensland."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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