Folau flies to 50 Tests

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Israel Folau can’t quite believe he has played one Wallabies Test, let alone 49.

The superstar fullback will play his 50th Test on Saturday against Scotland at Murrayfield, just three years and five months after his debut, a mark that has only been bettered by Michael Hooper in this current Wallabies outfit.

That first night at Suncorp Stadium, after less than a season in Rugby, Folau started on the wing against the British and Irish Lions, scoring two tries in his maiden outing, the beginning of a journey that has taken him to the verge of 50 Tests, each appearance a run-on start.

Israel Folau with former GWS coach Kevin Sheedy when he signed in AFL. Photo: Getty ImagesWhen asked to reflect on his 50 caps, Folau’s overwhelming emotion is gratitude – for the opportunity to switch to Rugby and those who supported him along the way.

“Looking back on my journey it was obviously different starting out playing Rugby League and I didn’t think my career would turn this way in going down this track and playing for the Wallabies,” he said.

“To get the opportunity to play for the Wallabies one time was probably a memorable moment in terms of my Rugby career.

“Now to do it potentially 50 times is a great honour for me to do and there are so many people that you want to thank that you’re representing along the way." - Israel Folau

“I just look back and I’m grateful for the journey that I’ve come on. It’s been a good one.”

He made it look easy on his first outing, though the 27-year-old says it was anything but, coming into the code after a shortened stint in AFL for the Greater Western Sydney Giants.

“I was a little bit confused, I’ve got to say,” he said.

“The hardest part was all the things that go on at the breakdown and what to do there.

“Otherwise when I got the opportunity to train with the Waratahs and play, Cheika was the coach there and he just kind of gave me the opportunity to roam and get a feel for the game which was good for me.

“Playing at the back at fullback you can certainly see everything unfold from the back so it was a good thing for me to learn and do as much as I can.”

Michael Cheika has played a major role in Israel Folau's career.  Photo: Getty ImagesA rugby league kid through and through, Folau says he’s fallen in love with Rugby, a sport that feels as natural to him as anything else.

“Obviously watching a few of the Test matches here and there… but growing up as a kid Rugby League was always the game I played,” he said.

“I feel like I’ve only played the game for a couple of years, I’ve [fallen] in love with it and I feel like I’ve played it since I was a young kid.

“I’m glad I made the decision back then to play the game. - Israel Folau

“It’s given me so many opportunities. I’m so grateful.”

This season has provided its own challenges for Folau, who hasn’t scored a try in eight games, but just like every other obstacle he has faced since switching codes.

Israel Folau grew up aspiring to play rugby league. Photo: Getty ImagesBut Wallabies attack coach Stephen Larkham said try scoring didn't reflect Folau's influence on matches in recent weeks.

"He's improved each week," he said.

"Whilst he hasn't scored tries, he's certainly contributing to the team a lot more than he was at the start of this year.

"I think we've found a good spot for him in the team both in attack and defence. He certainly seems like he's enjoying it." - Stephen Larkham

For Folau, the streak is just like many other obstacles he's scaled - one that will not worry him.

“It’s always a bonus when you’re scoring tries but as long as I feel like I’m contributing to the team in a real impactful way I think I’m always content with that.

“It was no different on the weekend, I was pretty happy with how things went so when that opportunity comes around again hopefully maybe soon I’ll be excited to see that again.”

All of the Wallabies’ Spring Tour Tests will be broadcast LIVE on beIn Sports and streamed LIVE on Foxtel Go (for Foxtel subscribers).