Foley all the better for competition

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The battle Bernard Foley played out with Quade Cooper last year for the Wallabies flyhalf spot has made him a better player.

Foley comes into this series with a stranglehold on the flyhalf jersey, so much so that in the current squad you would struggle to find a specialist 10 to back him up, particularly in the absence of Christian Lealiifano.

It’s a far cry from his position just shy of a year ago, swapping in and out of the Test team, as he and Queensland counterpart Cooper jostled for the starting position.

In the end, Foley edged Cooper and the World Cup became somewhat of a defining tournament for the 26-year-old, with his individual effort against England by no means the least of his feats.

Looking back on that competition, days out from the opening Test against England, Foley said the shuffling set him up in the best way possible.

“I think definitely that was Cheik’s plan not to let anyone get settled or complacent,” he said.

“Looking back, I really think it was good growth for myself just in competing and having to work for every session as every player did leading to that World Cup.

“It probably held me in really good stead.”

Bernard Foley's boot is crucial. Photo: ARU Media/Stu WalmsleyFoley’s boot saved Australia in a couple of tight situations, once keeping England at arm’s length and then putting the Wallabies through to a semi-final, and if that situation pops up again, he will be ready.

“I definitely have 100 per cent belief in that if I do the preparation I’m confident with any kick on the field,” he said.

“I suppose it’s just coming back to knowing yourself .

“At end of day those kicks you’ve done before and you can’t get too overwhelmed by them. They are just another kick.”

While Foley is truly ensconced in the Wallabies 10 jersey, he will be surrounded by a different-looking backline on Saturday night, with little more intrigue than that around the centre combinations.

Foley has seen firsthand the transition of Israel Folau from 15 to 13 and while he would be happy for him to play anywhere, he gave a ringing endorsement of Folau’s centre potential.

Folau’s switch from fullback to outside centre for the Waratahs has been a revelation for the ex-NRL star and Foley said his NSW teammate would be able to make the switch at Test level if needed.

“He’s got benefits with both…he’s a really good counter-attacker from the back but what I’ve really enjoyed with him playing No.13 this year has been just his ability to attract defenders, especially in that frontline,” he said.

“Even the times he doesn’t get the ball he commits more defenders and that probably opens up space for other people.”

“He’s a handful to tackle in that front line. He’s good under the high ball at the back too.

‘I’m not sure how Cheik is going to use him.”