Israel Folau. (Photo by Joosep Martinson/Getty Images)
Israel Folau has revealed he's spent most of his NSW
pre-season training at fullback as the Waratahs weigh up
throwing their star recruit straight into the key position.
Folau says he doesn't yet have a preference on where he
lines-up during Super Rugby, but believes playing in the
No.15 shirt during Waratahs trial matches is the best way for
him to get a handle on rugby.
The cross-code convert seems certain to at least get a run at
fullback during the Waratahs' opening trial against Melbourne
in Hobart on Saturday night.
Coach Michael Cheika hasn't decided on the make-up of his
back three for the season proper, but wants all the
candidates to be as adept at fullback as on the wing.
Cheika is desperate for attacking weapon Folau to see as much
space and quality ball as possible, and combined with his
excellent skills under the high ball and kicking ability,
fullback might prove to be his best position.
Folau isn't making any bold statements but agrees with Cheika
that time at the back will give him a speedy education on the
intricacies of rugby.
"I feel fine with that (fullback). I've been training most of
the time at fullback so it doesn't feel any different and I'm
looking forward to the challenge on Saturday," said Folau,
who never played fullback in the NRL.
"We'll see how we go in trial games but at this stage I
actually have no preferences.
"Fullback is probably the best way to learn and like Cheik
says, you can see everything unfolding in attack. There will
be a lot of space so that will be good."
Ruck work shapes as one of the biggest adjustments for AFL
defector Folau, however Cheika says his star signing seems
"comfortable" with that area of the game.
Cheika named a 28-man squad devoid of most of his Wallabies
for the first hit-out against the Rebels - with Test stars
likely to return in time for the third and final trial
against the Crusaders on February 14 at Allianz Stadium.
The new coach wants to see combinations develop and for Folau
to feel relaxed and free.
"My biggest thing for him is to let him have the space and
enjoy himself and not get too beat up about it all," Cheika
"He should have a good time. There's no competition points on
the line at this stage so I want guys to get a good hit out
and not get too carried away by it all."
Meanwhile, Cheika has called on the ARU to throw their weight
behind the Waratahs' bid to hold onto lock Sitaleki Timani.
The Wallabies powerhouse has reportedly agreed to join French
club Montpellier at the end of the year, however Cheika said
it might not be too late to change Timani's mind.
"I know we've put everything we can into our offer ... we're
mindful of the salary cap ... and the way the contract system
is at the moment it's going to be up to the ARU to do the
best they can," he said.
"No one has shown me a piece of paper where he's signed on
the dotted line.
"It's very important for us to maintain locks of Sita's
quality in Australia. I'm not saying that to play politics,
it's the truth. I'd love to keep him."
Waratahs trial squad: Michael Alaalatoa, Richard Aho, Kotoni
Ale, Ollie Atkins, Peter Betham, Wayne Borzak, Tom Carter,
Cam Crawford, Israel Folau, Bernard Foley (vice captain),
Grayson Hart, Michael Hodge, Luke Holmes, Rob Horne, AJ
Gilbert, Tom Kingston, Matt Lucas, Brendan McKibbin
(captain), Tolu Latu, Dane Maraki, Elijah Niko, Greg
Peterson, Jeremy Tilse (vice captain), Lopeti Timani, Peter
Samu, Will Skelton, John Ulugia, Ben Volavola.