Foley rises up leadership ranks ahead of Bledisloe

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Bernard Foley says there’s no extra weight on his shoulders, despite the absence of Queenslander Quade Cooper in the Wallabies squad.

Cooper was left out of the Wallabies extended squad, and there is expected to be a few more surprises sprung when Michael Cheika names a trimmed-down Rugby Championship group.

Rebels hooker Jordan Uelese looks set to be the biggest bolter, with Tolu Latu still recovering from a neck injury and the rookie impressing in camp, while Cheika's centres selection will be intriguing, with Kurtley Beale's return, Samu Kerevi's progress after a pectoral injury and the inclusion of Campbell Magnay, Curtis Rona and Bill Meakes in the wider group.

Foley is the only specialist 10 in the current Wallabies set up with Cooper’s omission, but said he didn’t feel like there was any more expectation.

“Having Quade not there is a shame for him,” he said.

“I think he’s a quality player and he’s given a lot to the Wallaby jersey.

“It’s not like I’m stepping up a level because of his absence.

“We used to talk a lot heading into games, discuss in terms of game plans, structures and strategies.

“Having him not there, he’s probably a voice I don’t talk to but also an opportunity to speak to the other guys in the side.”

The return of a reinvigorated Kurtley Beale also has Foley excited about their possible reunion in the inside backs in the opening Bledisloe.

“When he was overseas, he probably identified how much passion and how much pride he had for the Wallaby jersey and I think that taught him how much he wanted to come back or showed him,” he said.

“So, him coming back has been really insightful for himself and I’m really looking forward to playing with him.”

Though the playmaker already takes a lead role in the Wallabies fold, Foley looks in the mix to be officially made a vice-captain on Friday, when Wallabies coach Michael Cheika names his Rugby Championship squad, with Samu Kerevi, Adam Coleman and Allan Alaalatoa among the other standouts.

Foley was one of the Wallabies deputies in June and both new skipper Michael Hooper and coach Michael Cheika have singled him out for his leadership improvement this season.

“I probably acknowledge it’s an area I wanted to improve on and probably something I had to grow as a player,” Foley said.

“A lot of it is by example, you can’t be saying one thing and doing something else.

“Going out there and mastering your craft or just (showing) that repetition and consistency in your preparation and in your performances and also taking a bit more of a mentor (role) in terms of helping young guys and being more readily available to chat with, bounce ideas off and just speak with hopefully.

“As the 10 you’re in that leadership role naturally and you have to grow in those positions so for me it can only be beneficial to grow as a leader and hopefully beneficial to the side.”

Wallabies halfback Nick Phipps said Foley had taken a step up this season and forecast plenty more improvement where that came from.

“He’s the kind of guy, he’s able to ride those tough moments and keep positive amongst the  group,” he said.

“He’s also taken a lot more of the tactical load in the teams I’ve been involved in.

“You want your 10 to be driving those standards amongst the shape, the style we want to play especially attacking sort of stuff.

“With him right on top of that, being in control and demanding that from others really fine tuning things out on the training pitch and that’s helped him grow as a player.

“We’re really only scraping the surface on where he can go I think.

“He’s such a world class 10 at the moment and leading into the World Cup in a few years’ time, he’s going to be right at the peak of his game.”

The Wallabies take on the All Blacks in Sydney on August 19, kicking off at 8pm AEST LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RADIO. Buy tickets here.