Canes prepared for inevitable Folau damage
May 2, 2014
Israel Folau is enjoying another productive season with the Waratahs © Getty Images
The Hurricanes are quite prepared for Israel Folau to hurt them at Allianz Stadium on Saturday, but they hope to minimise his impact and eclipse it with their own battery of exciting runners in Sydney. The New South Wales Waratahs fullback is the most potent attacking weapon in Super Rugby this season, posting nine tries in six games and slicing apart defences that gift him space. He also leads the competition for offloads (22) and clean breaks (15).
Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett says his side cannot hope to snuff out that kind of impact; rather, he says they will budget for it and back their own impressive line-up to trump the sixth-placed hosts. "He'll have times when he gets on top of us," Hammett said of Folau. "It's important that we can live with that and deal with that, and hopefully our attacking game comes out on top."
The Hurricanes certainly have a strong attacking game. They are the only team to run more metres per game (518) than the Waratahs (499). Centre Alapati Leiua and winger Julian Savea lead the competition for defenders beaten, and sit just behind Folau for linebreaks. Another incisive runner, five-eighth Beauden Barrett, has scored a competition-high 127 points.
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Hurricanes centre Conrad Smith says fullback Andre Taylor and All Blacks wingers Savea and Cory Jane are excited about matching Folau. Jane scored a hat-trick in last weekend's win over Queensland Reds, while Savea has been a giant handful in recent weeks and Taylor's counter-attacking game is back near the dizzying level of two seasons ago.
Likewise, Smith and Leiua, who has thrived since being shifted from the wing, can't wait to lock horns with the Waratahs' midfield comprising Wallabies Kurtley Beale and Adam Ashley-Cooper.
Smith rates long-time rival Ashley-Cooper as world class and at the top of his game this year.
"He's had to deal with a lot of position changes through his career, he's had to play all over the show. I just think that's made him into a very good rugby player."
Alapati Leiua and team-mate Julian Savea lead Super Rugby for defenders beaten this season © Getty Images