Folau ready for the biggest stage

by staff

Israel Folau thrives in the spotlight.

None will be more scorchingly bright than what he is to experience as the World Cup contenders are whittled down.

The 26-year-old has played in world cups in other codes, NRL grand finals, Super Rugby finals and made his Wallabies debut in the 2013 British and Irish lions tour.

It was the lure of a Rugby World Cup, the biggest prize on offer, that proved a major factor in staying in the 15-man code and a challenge he has met each week.

It has been as big an event as he was expecting, though possibly this week was one no one had anticipated with the death knell sounded on hosts, England.

“I think from my personal experience it’s been a lot bigger than that,” he said.

“I think my expectations coming into the World Cup was met with what I’ve experienced so far

“It’s probably only going to get a lot bigger as we go further.”

A quietly spoken man who values time on his own as much as spending it with teammates, Folau seems to conduct himself off the field with the steeliness he shows under a high ball on it.

It’s not an arrogance but rather a self-assuredness that there’s not an external expectation he is pressured to live up to.

“I don’t feel like I need to deliver,” he said.

“I enjoy playing the big games. (People) talk about pressure but I don’t feel like there’s any type of pressure going into any game, no matter how big it is.

“I take every game as the same approach.”

His success across the two rugby codes can’t help but be contrasted to friend and former league opponent, Sam Burgess, who had a baptism of fire into the Test stage.

Folau expressed his sympathy for Burgess on Friday, and said he should stick with the 15-man game.

“For myself, it was pretty challenging in my first year playing super rugby,” he said.

“I feel like I managed to pick up the game.

“I don’t listen to any other comments from the outside but i just think that Sammy’s a great athlete who can really do well in the game and I hope he does.”

Folau hasn’t missed a Test for the Wallabies through injury since making his debut in 2013 but that record looked in danger this week after rolling his ankle against England.

Despite missing the side’s main training session and sitting out again in the captain’s run, Folau was confident.

It wouldn’t have mattered to Folau, though, who says he would have pulled the pin had he not

"I think my body comes first and if I wasn’t right I wouldn’t play," he said.

“It’s probably not fair on the team as well, going out there and playing half-hearted.

And, when centre stage grows again on Saturday, he says he’ll be ready.

“I feel like I can do the job and hopefully I can get through tomorrow.”