Folau's preliminary final parallel

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

If a 13-game, two-goal AFL stint had gone differently, Israel Folau might have been preparing for GWS’s first preliminary right now.

It would have been a path far removed from that he has forged in rugby, though, with a Super Rugby Championship and a World Cup final berth under his belt since leaving his brief AFL foray.

Folau has kept one eye on his former club in the AFL finals and was potentially the least shocked about their preliminary final qualification in just their fifth season.

“I was always confident that the team was going to do really well in a short space of time but I think it would've been a little bit of a shock to probably most people that they've come this far in such a short time,” he said.

“I saw how much talent there was at the club with all the young guys coming through and with them recruiting a lot of experienced players at their club really helped them as a team and I think they're going really well.

“I still talk to a lot of them. We always talk about those good old memories back in the time but I'm just happy for them that they're going really well.”

While his ex-teammates are one win away from a grand final, Folau’s main focus is helping the Wallabies build momentum, after finally breaking a six-Test losing streak with a win against the Springboks.

That victory has lifted a burden off the side Folau said and the fullback said he was keen to take on Michael Cheika’s urge to play with some more freedom.

“I think for every player in the team, they want to go into a game feeling that way and I think on the weekend was the first time we had that feeling where we could play with a bit of freedom,” he said.

“The guys are excited that we've got the win now, it takes a lot off our shoulders.”

The Wallabies have fielded heavy criticism in the midst of their losing streak but Folau said the side had kept an internal focus through the

“Inside the camp the guys felt pretty good,” he said.

“It wasn't too heavy. Obviously it was frustrating to not get a win for a long time.

“For the guys, the feeling in camp has been pretty good, regardless of the results.

Israel Folau is enjoying more freedom. Photo: Getty Images“We've been working hard for so long so it was only a matter of time for us to try and get that first win and it was good that we got that last week, now we can try and build on that.”

The Wallabies' clash with the Pumas is their final Test on home soil this season and Folau said they would be taking the Argentinian threat very seriously.

“I think we can certainly expect a lot of offloads and bit of free flowing attack. For us as a team, defensively we've got to try and stay alive until the ball is dead so we'll work on that as the week goes on.

“Defensively, I thought we were pretty good on the weekend. It was a huge improvement from obviously the previous couple of games but still, not getting ahead of ourselves.”

The Wallabies host the Pumas at nib Stadium on Saturday, kicking off at 8:05pm AEST. Buy tickets here.