Israel Folau’s hunch has been borne out with a shift to the wing as the NSW Waratahs shoehorn their star Wallabies backs into the starting team to face the Queensland Reds.
A proven Super Rugby match-winner at fullback, Folau has become accustomed to wing or outside centre duty when required at various stages of his career.
He even predicted two weeks ago another switch was looming, given the backline resources available at the Waratahs.
The backline boasts a combined 351 Test caps, and that’s without the services of injured halfback Nick Phipps (71 caps).
While Folau has previously stated he is most comfortable at fullback, assistant coach Simon Cron says the 29-year-old has no problem with his latest shift.
“The one thing about Izzy is he’s a massive team man so, whatever’s best for the team, Iz does. You probably hear him talk about that all the time,” Cron said.
“For him, it opens up some opportunities. It puts him in a position to potentially get some ball from first phase, and also from any sort of kick.”
In 11 Tests last year, Folau started six at fullback, four on the wing and one at outside centre.
His two tries in the nervous 31-30 win over the Sunwolves two weeks ago lifted the ex-NRL star to 58 in Super Rugby, one ahead of former Australian record-holder Joe Roff.
Another double at the Sydney Cricket Ground and Folau would leapfrog former All Black Doug Howlett as leading try-scorer.
Cron is confident the new backline alignment will click, believing Beale’s ability to sneak into first receiver will make him hard for the Reds to read.
“KB’s that guy – he loves getting his hands on the ball. I have no doubt he’ll come in and get a lot of pill.
“There’s a lot of experience in th at backline so, in terms of decision making processes, communication, that adds a lot for us.”
Cron has admired the speed with which the veteran Wallabies’ hooker has learned the Waratahs’ systems and taken on a mentoring role with younger players.
NSW Waratahs: Kurtley Beale, Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Karmichael Hunt, Curtis Rona, Bernard Foley, Jake Gordon, Jack Dempsey, Michael Hooper (capt), Ned Hanigan, Rob Simmons, Jed Holloway, Sekope Kepu, Damien Fitzpatrick, Harry Johnson-Holmes.
Res: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Rory O’Connor, Chris Talakai, Lachlan Swinton, Will Miller, Mitch Short, Mack Mason, Alex Newsome.
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