Folau to stay put until bye: Gibson

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Expect Israel Folau to stay at 13 for the Waratahs for at least the next month, coach Daryl Gibson says.

Folau had his best game at outside centre against the Sharks on the weekend, a positive on an otherwise disappointing night, and Gibson said he would be staying put at 13 until round seven, as per a preseason plan laid out to the Wallabies star.

Though Folau has played 13 in Super Rugby for the better part of a year, Gibson said he felt it was still somewhat of an experiment. 

“We’re going to give him until round seven, sit down in the bye week and talk about where we think we’re at,” he said.

"So it is an experiment.

“He had a huge involvement, huge touch count, which is something we’ve been wanting to achieve with him over the last two rounds.

“He had a major impact in the game and I think that’s a real positive for him. He went searching for the ball and I think he’s starting to come to terms positionally with how he gets himself in the game.”

Second-year player Andrew Kellaway is likely to suit up against the Brumbies, despite a shoulder niggle, allowing Folau to stay in that outside spot.

Andrew Kellaway has started at fullback in all three games so far. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyKellaway has had an impressive start to the season but Gibson didn’t rule out switching Folau should the youngster have a dip in form.

“It relies on everyone performing in their position,” he said.

“If we don’t have a fullback that’s playing well, it’s very easy to put Folau back there (but) then we have to find an outside centre, so there’s a domino effect there.”

More likely to change this weekend is the inside centre spot, with rookie Irae Simone struggling for form in his debut Super Rugby season, after a sensational NRC campaign last year.

Gibson said Simone’s start to the year was a sign of the gulf between NRC and Super Rugby, with the former in just its fourth season.

“He’s finding his feet at this level,” he said.

“What it has shown us is there is a gap from NRC to Super Rugby.

“So, that makes the NRC even more important, that we continue to support that competition so the players are exposed to another level and a step up to Super Rugby level is not so big.”

Gibson is optimistic about Bernard Foley's chances of playing after three weeks out with concussion, after the playmaker voiced his confidence on radio this morning.

Jed Holloway is in line to return to the number eight spot after missing the opening three rounds with a hamstring injury.

Aside from positional changes, the Waratahs will be looking at their set piece ahead of Saturday’s clash with the Brumbies, a side whose trademark is their lineout and scrum.

With the rolling maul a problem for the Waratahs in Johannesburg a fortnight ago, Gibson said they would be very wary of being targeted there.

“Given our defensive lineout record against the Lions particularly, good improvement against the Sharks but obviously that’s one of the strength areas and that’s something that we’re working towards being good at.”

The Waratahs host the Brumbies on Saturday night, kicking off at 7:45pm AEDT, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via radio on RUGBY.com.au.

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