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First Test after Folau's sacking

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A dollar for Israel Folau's thoughts as Australia prepare to play their first Test since his sacking

A dollar for Israel Folau’s thoughts in the early hours an Australian Sunday morning this weekend. 

The Wallabies go into Rugby Championship action 11,000 kilometres away in South Africa and the 30-year-old will be absent having being a near ever-present the past six seasons, starting in 31 of his country’s 33 matches in the tournament. 

It has been a cataclysmic, life-changing few months for the fallen Australian star. He had thought he was quids in at the beginning of the year, Rugby Australia convincing him his future was best served by signing a fresh four-year deal reportedly worth $4million.  

However, that scenario was quashed all because of an April 10 social media message that claimed homosexuals were destined for hell unless they repented their sins. 

The post was liked on Instagram 73,798 times but his employers took a dim view, tearing up his contract 37 days later on May 17 and creating a headache for Michael Cheika that will potentially run all the way to the World Cup finals in Japan. 

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Those that are living in Sin will end up in Hell unless you repent. Jesus Christ loves you and is giving you time to turn away from your sin and come to him. _______________ Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these , adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
Galatians 5:19?-?21 KJV _______________ Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Acts 2:38 KJV _______________ And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
Acts 17:30 KJV _______________

A post shared by Israel Folau (@izzyfolau) on

Let’s momentarily ignore Folau’s divisive religious narrative. The bottom line is he was a mightily fine rugby player on his day, one the Wallabies had become massively dependent on in their back field. 

Test rugby nations are supposed to be sure of themselves coming towards the end of a four-year World Cup cycle, not taking chances that it will turn out alright on the night.  

That is the territory that Cheika finds himself occupying in fielding inexperienced Tom Banks (three caps) at Ellis Park, the intimidating spiritual venue where the Springboks clinched the 1995 World Cup and where the Wallabies have been bereft of a victory since 1963.   

You can crib that Folau wasn’t particularly devastating in his 10 Rugby Championship encounters versus the Springboks as he only ever scored two tries. 

Truth be told, though, he had become a player whose strike rate had jumped through the hoops in recent times. Of his 14 career Rugby Championship tries in 31 appearances, seven had come in his last 10 outings, the sort of potency that won’t be easily replaced by Banks and co.

Johannesburg would have been a new port of call for Folau. His 31 matches had taken place in 16 different cities, but he had yet to run out at Ellis Park and his absence for Australia’s first Test match since his very public sacking helped put a spring in Rassie Erasmus’ step this week.

“They will be less of a threat aerially without him… that is one thing you worry about,” claimed the Boks boss on Wednesday when he revealed South Africa’s hand for the championship opener against a Wallabies team that has lost 11 of its last 15 matches under Cheika. 

“I don’t know how influential he was as a leader but certainly I think we have a better chance in the aerial department. He is a great striker and finishes tries. He was the top-try scorer (in Super Rugby). He is an influential player.

“There is no doubt they will miss Folau because he is a world-class player but they interchange positions no matter the number on their back.”

They do, of course, interchange frequently. Folau, the regular full-back, had run on the wing in a number of last season’s tournament games, but the Wallabies must now prove there is prosperous life after their controversial star’s exclusion.   

A dollar for his thoughts as they set about that onerous task.

ANATOMY OF FOLAU’S 31 RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP MATCHES 

He played in 16 different cities: 6 – Sydney; 4 – Perth, 3 – Brisbane, Mendoza, 2 – Wellington, Cape Town, Gold Coast; 1 – Rosario, Auckland, Pretoria, London, Dunedin, Canberra, Bloemfontein, Port Elizabeth, Salta.

He faced Argentina the most: Argentina P11 W9 L2; New Zealand P10 W1 D1 L8, South Africa P10 W3 D2 L5. His overall success rate was 46.7 per cent – W13 D3 L15.

He completed five full championships in six seasons: Played all games in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017. He missed the matches away to New Zealand and home to South Africa in 2018. All bar five of his appearances came at full-back.

He scored 14 tries: Four came against Argentina in the two 2013 fixtures, including a hat-trick at Rosario. There were further tries against South Africa and New Zealand in 2014, but he then went 16 matches without another score until August 2017 against New Zealand. That score in Sydney ignited a run that saw him score seven tries in his last 10 Rugby Championship matches.  

WATCH: The RugbyPass trailer for the Ben Foden MLR documentary that will be released this weekend

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A dollar for Israel Folau's thoughts as Australia prepare to play their first Test since his sacking