Israel Folau seeks to become playmaker
January 30, 2014
Israel Folau hopes to create as well as to finish in 2014 © Getty Images
Israel Folau is not content being the most damaging runner in Australian rugby, preparing to take his game to the next level by turning himself into a ball-player in 2014.
Folau is certain to start the Super Rugby season as New South Wales Waratahs fullback, ending any thought that Michael Cheika might have had to try him in the centres after showing in his debut season of rugby that he's both difficult to stop and most dangerous with ball in hand.
Rather than switching jumpers to become ever more involved in the game, Folau hopes to add a new dimension to his influence by putting defenders in two minds with the threat of a pass when he takes the ball to the line.
"I think I've still got a fair way to go," Folau said of his development as a player. "Last year was my first year in rugby and I was pretty happy with how things turned out. I get another shot at this year to try and improve my game and be a lot more consistent.
"In attack, I can inject myself a little bit more and be a bit more creative and play a ball-playing role; try different things to add to my game. Taking it to the line and seeing opportunities; you have to make the most of it. I've had to work on it a bit. You watch different players and pick up different things. But as a fullback, you've got to have that as part of your game."
Folau's selection at fullback leaves Cheika with an almost impossible task to fit fellow Wallabies Kurtley Beale and Bernard Foley into the starting team - given they'll have to fight it out for the five-eighth role. But Folau was a revelation at the back for Australia under Ewen McKenzie last year, and Cheika will hand him the keys to the Waratahs' backline. By incorporating ball-playing into his game, however, Folau will be able to ease pressure from the selected five-eighth.
Folau and Wallabies team-mate Michael Hooper will sit out the Waratahs' opening trial against Melbourne Rebels in Albury on Saturday.