ISRAEL Folau has revealed he has 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 does not 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 has not 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 Folau to see as much space and ball as possible, and combined with his skills under the high ball and kicking ability, fullback might prove to be his best position.
Folau agrees that time at the back will give him a speedy education in rugby.
“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.
“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, but 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 hitout 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 said.
Cheika called on the ARU to get behind the Waratahs’ bid to hold on to lock Sitaleki Timani, who has reportedly agreed to join French club Montpellier at the end of the year.
“It’s very important for us to maintain locks of Sita’s quality in Australia,” Cheika said. “I’d love to keep him.” AAP