This week Matt and Jamie talk through some of the other nations...
Is this the man to lead the Wallabies to World Cup Victory?
At the time of his defection from AFL to rugby union, Israel Folau fielded a press conference and was condemned by the media for not answering many questions. He did however, mutter these very profound words.
“Everyone is entitled to their opinions… But I’ll speak the truth when it’s my time.”
In all the excitement over English rugby league convert Sam Burgess and his inclusion in England’s World Cup squad, the rugby world has seemed to forget about Folau who has more than validated the hype that surrounded his decision to enter rugby union.
Making his highly anticipated debut in Rugby Union with the NSW Waratahs in the 2012 season following his successful careers in the NRL and AFL, Folau received negative media coverage over his apparent greed following the cash driven contract demands he made. However, his promise to “speak the truth” when it was his time has been well and truly delivered.
What Folau accomplished in his first year in the code was nothing short of miraculous and although his seasons since joining haven’t been as prolific, his last two years in the code have further cemented his standing as Australia’s most dangerous attacking force. And as the Wallabies head into the World Cup with Folau at the height of his powers, they’ll be relying on his prowess with ball in hand to spark attacking opportunities, especially against the likes of England and Wales.
It’s not only Folau’s ball carrying skills that make him such a prominent threat. It’s his penetrative running lines that cannot be taught, it’s his strength in the tackle, it’s his cool and calm demeanour, his prowess in the air (undoubtedly assisted by his time in AFL) and it’s his innate ability to take the ball into the tackle or look for the offload while doing it. Like him or loathe him, he’s a very special player and an even better athlete. Dangerous every time he gets the ball, he would walk into any international team and has the ability to break the 2015 Rugby World Cup wide open.
While it’s unfair to say that Australia’s World Cup hopes rest on the 26 year old’s shoulders, there’s no denying that he is the key to Australia’s attacking prowess. And the bottom line is that when Folau is on song, the team follows suit. The Wallabies under Michael Cheika have completely reinvented their attacking threat this summer which was reflected in the captivating performances against South Africa and New Zealand before being crowned champions of the Rugby Championship for the first time. And they will want to take their good form into the tournament with Folau setting the tone.
It’s very rare to find a player like Folau who is so capable in the air, physically threatening, technically gifted and posesses the ability to create chances out of nothing and the Wallabies are slowly learning out how to use him. The host nation England were often guilty for not using Manu Tuilagi enough during their matches which resulted in them coming up short against the Southern Hemisphere sides. With Cheika at the helm, that’s not likely to happen in this instance so England, Wales, Fiji and Uruguay will need to be on alert from the moment the match kicks off.
While the Australian public are unlikely to see Folau back in their domestic competition anytime soon after the fullback signed for Japanese Club NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes for the 2015/16 season, there’s been no indication that he’s even given a fleeting thought to what lies after 31 October. All roads lead to Twickenham and you can guarantee that there will be only one road that Israel Folau will be contemplating.