Waratahs open to Folau flexibility

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Israel Folau will play in the best spot for the Waratahs, whether that be fullback or on the wing, backs coach Chris Malone says.

Folau has played mainly fullback in 2018, but played a match on the wing before injuring his hamstring against the Brumbies, and played 20 minutes on the edge against the Blues.

Folau’s wife, Maria, tweeted some dissatisfaction over his switch to the wing, during the match on Saturday night.

Malone said he hadn’t seen the tweet, but only had praise for Folau’s performance in his return from injury.

Israel Folau. Photo: Getty Images“That's the beauty of not being on social media,” he said.

“I don't have to worry about that.

“Israel coming back after a month out, he was really good on Saturday night, created a lot for us, brought the ball back really well and he'll only be better for that outing and we'll look for him to create more this week.”

Folau played the final 20 minutes on the wing at Brookvale Oval, after starting at fullback, and Malone said wherever he played he had a freedom to slot in how he wanted.

“Gibbo (coach Daryl Gibson) and I have both had countless conversations with Iz and he'll do anything for the team,” he said.

“He played 60 minutes of the game at fullback and 20 minutes on the wing and he knows he's going to offer a lot for the team wherever he is on the field and we give him licence to play.

“He was involved a lot for a guy that had just come back from injury, he had a really good game.

“He's professional and he's also a class footballer so he does his best talking when he's in between the white lines.”

Malone said there was no pressure from Wallabies coach Michael Cheika to play Folau in a particular spot.

The 29-year-old began his Wallabies career on the wing but has played fullback almost exclusively since then.

“I think the beauty about the involvement and Rugby Australia has only improved over the last couple of years since Cheik's made that real push to run skills through all of the Australian franchises etcetera, but when it comes to selecting the team, we've got to do what's right for the team and hence Israel played fullback on Saturday night and we thought in that game he was going to do a really good job for us there and he did."

The Waratahs take on the Crusaders on Saturday at 5:35pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and RUGBY.com.au RADIO.