Any debate about Israel Folau’s best position should end now. Folau is the best fullback in the world and three weeks at outside centre for the Waratahs isn’t going to change that.
He’s gone to 13 to improve a stuttering Waratahs attack and it’s doing a job for them because he’s getting more of the ball, something of which he was starved early on in the year.
It seems to be working pretty well too, with the tries tallying up for Folau in recent weeks.
Test footy is a completely different kettle of fish and Folau at centre will just not work in this current Wallabies set up.Kurtley Beale probably deserves a chance to start at 12 given his form with the Waratahs this season and Bernard Foley is the obvious choice to start at 10.
That means you need a big, powerful ball runner like Tevita Kuridrani or Samu Kerevi to burn a defender at first phase and make it easier for Folau to find space in the later phases.
His evasiveness is most effective one-on-one and fullback gives him the best chance to do that.
In a sense, it probably doesn’t give those guys enough credit to float Folau as a 13 chance, particularly Kuridrani, given his form for the Wallabies in that spot last season.
It’s been a long time probably since we’ve seen Folau at his best as a Test fullback, with the ankle injury that dogged his World Cup clearly affecting him greatly.
His most dangerous asset is his ability to make opposition defences rethink how they structure their defence - a characteristic that is so rare among international players.
You give him a 15 jersey and he just has so much more freedom than he would at 13 - he’s there a sa threat on the counterattack and can sniff around the blindside whenever he wants and play outside the structures.
This is what has made him so dangerous since he made his Wallabies debut in 2013 - though that was on the wing.
If you were going to move him anywhere out of fullback, wing is probably the only viable option, to play a similar role to that of Lote Tuqiri in the 2003 World Cup and force England to question its tactics.
We’ve seen plenty of players try to switch from fullback to 13 and it simply hasn’t worked.
The All Blacks tried it with Leon MacDonald and he was probably the only weak link in their 2003 World Cup squad.
Wallabies fullback Matt Burke also made a shift to outside centre when Mat Rogers came to the Waratahs and was more than capable of the switch, but wasn’t nearly as extraordinary as he was at fullback.
Burke’s is probably the most similar situation to Izzy and the solution is the same.
Folau is the best fullback in the world and the Wallabies backline is the most damaging when he is at 15, so that’s where he should stay.
A former Reds and Waratah Centre, Morgan Turinui player 20 Tests for the Wallabies before spending sevens years in France. He is now coaching at the Randwick Rugby Club in Sydney.
The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the ARU.