Folau would move to wing to accommodate NSW's "special Ks"

Super Rugby
by Iain Payten

He loves wearing the no.15 jersey but Israel Folau says he’d move to the wing to accommodate Kurtley Beale in the Waratahs backline, if it was the best thing for the team.

Beale was rested for the Waratahs’ opening game against the Hurricanes on Saturday night but coach Daryl Gibson said the Wallabies no.12 is due to return this week for NSW’s round two clash with the Sunwolves in Tokyo.

The Tahs’ one-point loss to the Canes stung but one of the silver linings for Gibson came in the performance of Karmichael Hunt, who wore the 12 jersey and played strongly in attack and defence.

That silver lining has potentially even turned into a selection headache for the coach, with Hunt sticking his hand high in the air for a permanent gig. 

His hard carries and strong defence helped the Tahs shut down the Canes' power game,

But Beale’s attacking creativity has long been a go-to for the Tahs too, though, and they only managed one try at Brookvale Oval.

If Gibson elects to stick with the resolute midfield of Hunt and Adam Ashley-Cooper, one possible re-shuffle may be to play Beale at no.15 and shift Folau to the wing; a position he had the Wallabies custodian last year.

It is a combination that would also keep Beale out of the defensive front-line.

Speaking after the Hurricanes’ game, Folau was asked if he’d like to have an extended run at no.15 or would shift to get “K” and “KB” on the field.

"I have made it clear in the past that fullback is my preferred position but obviously the team comes first,” Folau replied.

"You have strike players like KB and Karmichael, and if the coach decides he wants them both on the paddock at the same time and if that means for myself shifting over to the wing, I would be more than happy to do that.

"I am sure and confident in those guys in getting the ball out to the edges, so it wouldn’t be a problem."

Folau wasn’t surprised at the solid numbers put up by Hunt - 10 carries in traffic for 43 metres, eight tackles and four tackle busts. The pair played together many moons ago in league.

"I have known K for a long time now, obviously going way back playing together at the Broncos and in Origin together,” Folau said. 

“It’s great to have him in the team, the boys are loving him and his contribution so far has been great.

"He is a great all-round player who always puts the team first. He is a great get for us.”

The Waratahs head to Japan this week to take on their Australian conference rivals the Sunwolves, who were thrashed by the Sharks in Singapore in round one.

Gibson may have a bigger headache than settling on a no.12 if his only serious injury worry turns out to be Sekope Kepu.

Kepu copped a blow to the neck during the Brookvale Oval game and was uncomfortable when he came off.

Losing the 33-year-old veteran prop would be a huge blow given all the Waratahs’ other props are very young and inexperienced.

The Tahs handed the Sunwolves two heavy defeats last year but the Japanese team have the capacity to threaten, with a quick tempo and attacking mentality

They pumped Queensland in Japan last year but the Sunwolves are currently without any of their Japanese Test players, who are sitting out the first five weeks of Super Rugby.

"It’s a big challenge, they’re an unpredictable side so they’re going to throw some trick plays at you,” Folau said. 

"We are not going up there to think we have got the win down pat, it’s something we are really going to have to work hard for.”

Though it may present Gibson with a safe window to rest some big names, as per the Wallabies arrangement, Folau said he didn’t want to sit out after losing in round one.

"After the result tonight every player would want to turn things around obviously, and be eager to get out there and get the result. But that’s not in our hands, that’s up to the coaching staff,” he said.

“That said, we want to be out there every week playing footy.”