You can't stop him: Sunwolves 'plan' to handle Izzy in the air

Super Rugby
by staff

THE Sunwolves are planning for Israel Folau to continue his aerial assault when they take on the Waratahs on Saturday at Allianz Stadium, but admit they don't exactly have a blueprint to stop it.

"When you talk about a plan to stop him, I don't know if there is such a plan," Sunwolves defence coach Scott Hansen said.

"Because he is what he is.

"But what you can do is influence the play around that. We can influence how we protect the guy at the back and how allow him to have more time and space.

"We have a plan to cater for that, but it will be tested."

Hansen's comments came as Waratahs halfback Nick Phipps said the Waratahs weren't letting finals talk cloud their view of the clear and present danger posed by the Sunwolves.

After beating the Rebels last week, NSW have the ability to finish the regular season as high as second on the ladder, and potentially launch an unlikely bid for the title.Israel Folau. Photo: WalmsleyThe Sunwolves are last on the ladder but they're anything but easybeat fodder for NSW, after winning three of their last five games - including a victory over the Bulls last weekend.

Playing a challenging, up-tempo style, the Japanese side have troubled most teams and they'll be a big threat at Allianz Stadium, said Phipps.

"They have the best ruck speed in the comp and they never say die," Phipps said. 

"Quick lineouts from everywhere, quick taps and getting those offloads, and that's working well for them. They're playing some great footy.

"We certainly know what we're up against. We know how they want to play. It is important for us to be able to dictate the tempo of the game that we want."

Though Phipps admitted the prospect of playing finals footy was exciting for those Waratahs who'd already tasted it and those who had not, the lesson of the Tahs' run into the 2014 title was a salient one.

Namely, losing games just before the playoffs begin is not ideal. In 2014, the Waratahs went on a seven-game winning streak to claim the crown.

"That momentum that teams get, and you see it in all codes, once you have that momentum or that run going, it is a tough beast to stop," Phipps said.

"Hopefully we can put ourselves in that best position because to be honest, tomorrow night we want to be able to play our best game of the season. That's what we have been aiming for. 

"We have a really tough game tomorrow night which is going to test us ... it will be good to test ourselves out."

The Sunwolves arrived in Sydney with confidence after taking down the Bulls, and Hansen said the team were excited to test their expansive game against another side who like to play with the ball.

"I think it will be pretty expansive. Just watching them in their last few games they've taken their attack up to a new level and we are really excited to play them," he said.

"They have X-factor right across the field, so it will be a big challenge for us defensively. But with those wins comes confidence and with confidence comes the continued ability to express yourself."

Asked to nominate Waratahs players with x-factor, Hansen pointed to the whole NSW team sheet.

"All of them. Honestly, all of them," he said.

"You have one to fifteen, plus the bench.I wouldn't name one because honestly, on their day they have some world class players right through. Not only world class currently, but future world class. It's going to be a big challenge for us."

After SANZAAR stepped in to oversee the Sunwolves last year, and the franchise split away from the Japanese Rugby Union, the team has grown considerably in consistency and success this year.

Hansen the hard work of the previous Sunwolves players and staff was a major contributor but he agreed the move out of the African conferences and into the Australian conference had been a big help.

"In regards to travel we still have a fair amount of it however the style of rugby and the expression of athletes has suited the Japanese and our environment also," Hansen said.

"It has been a really good opportunity for us to be in the Australian conference."

The Waratahs take on the Sunwolves on Saturday night, kicking off at 7:45pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RADIO. Buy tickets here.