Waratahs halfback Nick Phipps is confident Israel Folau will stick with rugby beyond this season.
Folau is one of close to a dozen Waratahs coming off contract in 2018, along with Wallabies captain Michael Hooper and flyhalf Bernard Foley, and the fullback would among Australia’s top re-signing priorities.
The 28-year-old returned to training this week after taking a break at the end of 2017, getting married to netballer Maria Tutaia during his time off.
Folau has been linked with a rugby league return or even a move to New Zealand to be closer to Silver Fern Tutaia, who has now changed her last name to Folau.
Phipps said he felt like Folau was in a good space with the provincial and national side and urged the powers that be to lock him in sooner rather than later.
“He's not going anywhere surely,” he said.
“I can confidently say he really enjoys it here and not only the Waratahs and also the Wallabies.
“He loves the group, loves the people he gets to play with, so hopefully they can sort that out pretty quickly and keep him a Waratah for life.”
Despite taking time off, Folau hasn’t missed a beat in the preseason with NSW and Phipps said his off-field guidance was shining through more than ever in a young group.
“He's come back - I don't think he's had an offseason, he looks so good, straight back into it,” he said.
“That leadership he provides around the group, especially a lot of those younger Polynesian boys is so invaluable for us.
“He's great stepping into that role and I think after that break he's so excited to get back into it and I'm really looking forward to seeing how he goes over the next two years leading into the World Cup.”
As for the rest of the team, Phipps said he and the Waratahs were looking to ‘blow up’ 2017, and all but erase it from their memories.
“That's the mentality, is blowing up 2017,” he said.
“It was a year of ups and downs for me personally, but I feel like here in the new facilities, (with a) new squad coming in, it's a great chance to let go of a lot of things, learn, especially, but also just move past it and get back to what makes not only me but the squad great and our basics and our core skills, core strengths and build on them as opposed to focusing on other things that we don't really need to worry about.”
The Waratahs open their Super Rugby season on Saturday February 24 against the Stormers at Allianz Stadium, kicking off at 7:45pm AEDT. Buy tickets here.