Super Rugby round seven
Israel Folau 'exceeding expectations'
April 1, 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 produced a star turn against Western Force © Getty Images

Israel Folau is exceeding expectations in his maiden Super Rugby season with New South Wales Waratahs, coach Michael Foley said after the former rugby league international was among his best performers for the second successive week at Allianz Stadium.

"Yeah he's going great, I'm really happy with him," Cheika said after Folau produced a solid all-round performance against Western Force highlighted by several genuine linebreaks, assurance under the high ball, and effective defence.

"From the start I've been quite happy with his progression and his comfort factor on the ball. We're seeing him now have very little doubt in what he's doing. He's entering the line, his ruck work's good, he's great under the high ball, and then he's returning.

"It's up to us to try and orchestrate a bit more space for him to try and show his true talents, but I think in the last few weeks in particular he's really started to get a move on and he's really enjoying his footy, too, which is good."

Cheika, meanwhile, said the Waratahs were nowhere near the "finished product" despite showing great poise under pressure in beating the Force 23-19.

The Tahs led 23-9 early in the second stanza, after Adam Ashley-Cooper scored the hosts' only try of the afternoon in his 100th Super Rugby game, but the Force hit back with a converted try from Alfi Mafi and a penalty goal to close within four points on the hour.

"We looked a bit more comfortable being a score up than perhaps a few weeks ago (in the loss to the Cheetahs) when we were a bit more jittery," Cheika said after the Waratahs had held their nerve to post consecutive victories for the first time this season.

"I think there's still a bit [of anxiety there] but a little bit at a time. I just really feel our guys that we've started grooming in leadership roles are taking their responsibility really seriously and committing to the cause, and that's helping a lot of guys to come follow. But we're not going to get carried away with anything at this stage."

Cheika said when asked how much improvement was in his side that the Waratahs had "miles to go".

"There's no finished product coming any time soon, but that's not to say we're not happy with some of the way we're playing. ="We're getting the ball out to the players we need to. The guys who we want to get the ball [Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Drew Mitchell] are getting the ball and they're making yards. We need to deliver a more consistent platform and be more comfortable to stay on the ball for longer periods of time."

Western Force dominated the game everywhere bar the scoreboard (video available only in Australia)
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