Folau unfazed by finals past

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman in Japan

Some Waratahs might still be hanging on to the pain of their 2015 semi-final loss to the Highlanders, but Israel Folau is not one of them.

NSW will host the Highlanders this weekend in the sides’ first Super Rugby clash since that semi-final, though the two did face off in a preseason match, with the Highlanders taking a narrow win.

Folau said that 2015 wound had well and truly healed.

“For me, that stuff doesn’t come into the equation,” he said.

“Doesn't bother me at all. It’s a new game and I mean they’re world class players .

“We know how dangerous they are...putting that (history) aside it’s going to be a tough game.”

It will be a battle of two star fullbacks, with Folau facing off against New Zealand Test star Ben Smith, in what could be a pivotal battle in the match.

Smith got the better of Folau as the Wallaby battled injury in last year’s Rugby World Cup final, but things will likely be different this time around, with Folau close to peak fitness.

While Smith is embedded in 15, Folau’s positional future has been hotly debated throughout the pre-season and the 26-year-old had a taste of 13 against the Brumbies a fortnight ago.

Folau said he was prepared for wherever the Waratahs staff might want to put him.

“For me, it doesn't bother me at all. You want to cover all bases,” he said.

“Whatever position I play for the team that's entirely up to the coaching staff.

“I’m obviously preparing myself to make sure I cover everything that I have to and I’ll look to try and go out there and do the best for my team."

The Waratahs back line will likely stay similar to that which ran out against the Brumbies, with flyhalf Bernard Foley set to sit out another week with a shoulder injury.

While Foley’s return would potentially give a clearer picture of Folau’s future, the fullback said his teammate’s absence had uncovered some emerging talents in the group.

“We've got great depth with Bernard not having been there, I think David Horwitz is playing good footy and we just need to adjust certain things,” he said.

“With Kurtley, Rob Horne, Matty Carraro there (they) can cover a few positions, so it’s good.

“We’ve just got to keep the guys on the pitch and injury free.”