Bennett lure a factor in Folau’s future

admin | 杭州桑拿
5 Jan 2019

Israel Folau, left, has given Michael Cheika his seal of approval as Wallabies coach.
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Israel Folau, left, has given Michael Cheika his seal of approval as Wallabies coach.

Israel Folau, left, has given Michael Cheika his seal of approval as Wallabies coach.

Israel Folau, left, has given Michael Cheika his seal of approval as Wallabies coach.

CARDIFF: Wallabies fullback Israel Folau says he would love to be coached by NRL guru Wayne Bennett, admitting he faces an agonising choice over his sporting future in the next 12 months.

But Michael Cheika’s appointment as Australia’s Test mentor could sway the cross-code superstar, with Folau likening Cheika to a combination of Bennett and Melbourne’s Craig Bellamy.

The 25-year-old declared Cheika “exactly what we need” as the Wallabies prepare for their first Test with Cheika in charge on Sunday morning.

Folau’s ARU contract expires after the World Cup next year and he is weighing up opportunities in the NRL, Super Rugby and Europe as his next frontier.

Folau has ruled out joining former Parramatta captain Jarryd Hayne in a bid to break into the NFL and says he will not walk away from rugby until he believes he has conquered all his challenges.

He has been coached by some of Australian sport’s greatest minds in Bellamy and AFL legend Kevin Sheedy, but he is yet to team up with returning Brisbane Broncos leader Bennett.

“Everyone would love to play under Wayne, they all say good things about him and he’s certainly a great coach,” Folau said.

“But more so everyone says he’s a great person and always has time for everyone.”

Folau also said the Wallabies had moved on from Kurtley Beale’s off-field woes and he was “missed” in the Australian set up.

“I’m there to support him. If he needs a helping hand I’m just a good mate,” Folau said. “For him being a footy player probably comes second. I’ve spoken to him and he’s in good head space.

“It will just take time for him to get things right … the boys miss him in this team environment. I think the most exciting thing would be playing footy and just getting away from it. Hopefully he gets a chance to come over.”

Cheika was thrust into the Wallabies job when Ewen McKenzie quit two weeks ago.

The NSW Waratahs championship-winner has had just two weeks and a handful of training sessions to prepare the Wallabies for a gruelling four-Test spring tour of Europe.

But Folau has no doubts he is the man for the job as the Wallabies lay the foundations for World Cup success next year.

“[Cheika’s] a bit of both [Bellamy and Bennett], he’s definitely hard but fair,” Folau said. “The way he brings out his messages to the group is similar to coaches I’ve had in the past.

“Cheika’s a great coach and he’s got a different style, the intensity is good and the boys are buying into it. It’s exactly what we need.”

The ARU is desperate to retain marquee man Folau after an outstanding transition to the sport in less than two years.

Folau played against the British and Irish Lions last year, won a Super Rugby title and the John Eales Medal this year and is a certainty to play at the World Cup, barring injury.

He ruled out a chance to join Hayne in the NFL, saying he did not have the passion to learn the game.

But French rugby is circling with cash to burn, and the NRL is also a prospect for the former Greater Western Sydney Giants, Brisbane Broncos and Melbourne Storm star.

“There’s no timeline [for a decision]. Sometimes you do get sick of asking the same question but it doesn’t affect whether I’ll make it quicker or later,” Folau said.

“I’ve played rugby league, that could be an option. Playing rugby in Australia or elsewhere … there’s options everywhere. I don’t know.”

A relaxed Folau will be hoping to end a five-Test scoring drought when the Wallabies play Wales in Cardiff.

For most players five Tests without a try would not raise eyebrows. But such is Folau’s uncanny knack to sniff out a five-pointer, the powerful fullback is determined to cross the line again.

Folau says he will not walk away from rugby if he feels he has unfinished business, whether that is his goals for team success or individual improvement.

“It’s more fulfilling my potential and ability to play the game, there’s a lot of improvement there,” Folau said. “Once I feel that’s fulfilled, I’ll look to achieve other goals. It’s not anything to prove, I just want to improve.”

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