Israel Folau says he wants to do some more ball-playing for the Waratahs and doesn’t care if Queensland try to keep the ball away from him this weekend.
Superstar fullback Israel Folau has revealed he wants to do more ball-playing for the Waratahs and doesn’t care if Queensland deliberately kick away from him in Saturday’s Super Rugby clash.
The code hopper gave a strong indication on Thursday he wanted to stay in rugby after his contract expires at the end of next year and he is keen to be part of a mooted hybrid game later this year combining league and union.
Folau believes he is up to the challenge of meeting anything the Queensland kickers throw at him and is adamant he can still have an impact even if they keep the ball away from him.
“Whatever they do, I’m ready to take it on,” Folau said.
He will play under a new leader in the ANZ Stadium encounter, with openside flanker Michael Hooper named captain after regular skipper and blindside flanker Dave Dennis failed to recover from a knee injury.
It’s another honour for the 22-year-old Hooper, who last year won NSW’s and the Wallabies’ players’ player of the year and Australian Super Rugby player of the year awards.
With Dennis out, Stephen Hoiles has continued his remarkable resurgence by being elevated to the run on side.
The one-time Brumbies captain Hoiles, who is playing for NSW contract, last week came off the bench against the Western Force in his first appearance for the Waratahs in eight seasons – the third-longest gap in the club’s history.
Folau, who signed a two-year contact with the Australian Rugby Union in late August 2013, doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to return to rugby league, the code in which he first made a huge impact.
He would be happy to try and live up to the prediction of former Wallabies coach Robbie Deans that he would become a legend in union if he stuck with the code.
“I think that’s what I’m looking to achieve,” Folau said.
“When I signed last year, I said I want to be in the game long term, so I think after next year I’d like to be in the game again for how long that will take me to,” Folau said.
Played primarily as a fullback, Folau has also suggested to Waratahs coach Michael Cheika he add a distributing facet to his game, should chief playmakers Bernard Foley and Kurtley Beale be taken out of play.
“As a fullback, I can see they are starting to step up and be a kind of a ball-player as well and I wanted to take that on as well,” Folau said.
“I didn’t really do that last year and I think that’s a little bit of an element that I want to add to my game.”
A hat-trick of tries in the Waratahs’ season opener against the Force underlined Folau’s assertion he is reading the play a lot better than when he took his first tentative Super Rugby steps against Queensland a year ago.
“I remember that game, I wasn’t too happy with my game. Things didn’t go all that good for me,” Folau said.
“One year down the track, I’ve certainly learned a lot through my experiences in the game.”