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Cheika mulling Folau midfield switch

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Cheika mulling Folau midfield switch

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is considering a positional switch for star fullback Israel Folau ahead of his side’s first Bledisloe Cup match in Sydney on August 18.

With injuries likely keeping midfield staples Samu Kerevi and Tevita Kuridrani out for the Rugby Championship, Folau has emerged as a candidate to fill in, alongside Waratahs teammate Curtis Rona and Rebels utility Reece Hodge.

Folau has is yet to start for the Wallabies in the No 13 jersey, but has lined up there 16 times for the Waratahs.

“It’s no secret that I’ve preferred [Folau] at 15, but he’s played there and we’ll just take a look and see the guys who have played on the wing, we’ll see where they’re at,” Cheika told reporters this week.

“We need to create a bit of depth there, too, you could get another injury. You just don’t know.

“You need to create a few different options there going forward.”

The versatile Hodge, who has been playing first five-eighth for the Rebels but can cover both midfield positions and the wing, allows Cheika to go for a six-two split on the bench.

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Rona has played three tests on the wing, but has been a mainstay at 13 for the Waratahs this year.

“Curtis has probably been the main guy playing in his club team,” Cheika said.

“Then you’ve got Hodge who has played a little bit of 13, I’ve seen his named bandied around a little bit.

“We’ve been sort of focusing [Hodge] more in the playmaking roles, so it’d mean a pretty big change in what he’s been at.”

The Wallabies are set to play a trial match against a Super Rugby Selection team next Friday. That Wallaby side won’t feature Folau, Rona or Kurtley Beale with the Waratahs playing a Super Rugby semifinal in Johannesburg on Saturday, so all eyes will be on Hodge and where he lines up.

“Hodgy can play a bit of footy there [first five-eighth]” Cheika said.

“Then we can mix and match.

“I have Hamish Stewart in the camp here — he’s a good young player.

“Having some experience in this type of match will be good for him as well and between the two of them, we can mix and match and see what we need.”

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Cheika mulling Folau midfield switch