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Why Israel Folau should not sign with the Queensland Reds

By Ben Smith
Why Folau shouldn't sign with Reds.

Brad Thorn is dreaming of Folau leaping once again for high balls on the Suncorp Stadium turf, bringing him to the Reds in a return to Brisbane where he played rugby league for the Broncos nearly a decade ago.


“I guess it’s one of those things where you have those dreams at night and some people see sheep jumping, I see Izzy in a Queensland jersey,” Thorn told earlier this week.

“If we heard he was interested in coming here that would be exciting and can you imagine those (cross-field kicks)?” he suggested.

Israel Folau has remained coy on the matter also, remaining non-committal about his future ahead of the Waratahs home playoff match against the Highlanders.

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The Reds have been a disaster this decade with huge churn across the coaching staff and the playing roster since winning the title in 2011. They finished this year with a six-win season, showing they still have a way to go before they become a legitimate contender in the Australian conference under Thorn.

Leaving the conference-winning Waratahs to join the Reds would significantly hurt Folau’s chances of playing for another Super Rugby title. The Waratahs have just claimed back the mantle of Australia’s top team from the Brumbies and have by far the best roster in the country for the foreseeable future.


With the Brumbies undergoing a regeneration process and the Rebels set to lose a few key pieces next year, the Waratahs will likely be the number one team for the next few years. With a distorted conference system, securing home ground advantage gives the Waratahs a high likelihood of at least making the semi-finals but substantially improves the odds of making a final as well. The Waratahs could well be playing in Christchurch for the Super Rugby title this year due to a favourable playoff run.

Aside from the chances of winning more championships, the question isn’t whether Folau would make the Reds better, which is obviously yes, but whether the Reds will make Folau better – which is a no.

Thorn hasn’t yet settled on a halves pairing, and there is no definitive playmaker to structure the attack around following the exile of Quade Cooper. The game plan at the Reds became more and more conservative as the season went on, with little-to-no innovation from set-piece play.

The under-utilisation of set-piece plays would limit Folau’s effectiveness over the season, frustrating him with the lack of quality ball in space. Without a proven playmaker, the times he is given the ball will rely on him creating for himself. A large percentage of the current midfield set plays currently revolve around Samu Kerevi crash balls to reset pattern, to which again Folau would find little involvement in.


Thorn’s current assistant coach Paul Carozza is reportedly responsible for handling the Reds backs. With over 15 years of experience nurturing Queensland’s youth pathways, he is light on experience with top-level backs coaching. How he can improve Folau’s game remains to be seen, with little progress shown with the Reds backline this year.

If Thorn is really interested in implementing an aerial attack with cross-field kicking, he should start by finding a 10 with the necessary kicking skills to execute it. Young flyhalf Hamish Stewart was shielded from handling much of the kicking duties this year, averaging just 4.5 kicks per game, the third lowest of any flyhalf in Super Rugby.

If he stands to play a bigger role next season, there will be some growing pains as he continues to find his feet. To answer Thorn’s question, the only thing I can imagine at this stage is the ball flying out on the full on a regular basis.

The only possible draw for Folau is the potential to regularly play fullback again. His wife has expressed dissatisfaction with his selection on the wing at the Waratahs. Given that he is the current Wallaby fullback, it makes sense that he would want to play there.

The Reds used four players there this year – Jono Lance, Hamish Stewart, Aidan Toua and Jayden Ngamanu. With Lance and Toua likely to move on, the door will be wide open for Folau. The problem is, without the proper supporting cast and strategy, fullback at the Reds is almost a redundant position.

Just look at Karmichael Hunt’s transition that was an underwhelming failure, in part due to the lack of opportunities he had on the end of a Reds backline that could not create space. Despite multiple coaching changes, the Reds have veered back towards a similar playing style that failed them then and will fail them now.

Destination Brisbane shouldn’t be high on the priority list for Folau if this is a rugby decision. A move to the Queensland Reds would be a categorical career-killer for one of Australia’s best rugby talents.


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sean 2 hours ago
The bite don't match the bark

Yeah, he has a few good points… I disagree that our 7s haven't done anything, we won Bronze in 2016, and we were virtually unplayable to the backend of the “teens” winning the series. 7s is far more competitive globally than Union, so it's fair to say we haven't dominated, but we are almost always contenders. But I do agree that our national side doesn't perform nearly as well as it should between World Cups, and I do agree that our supporters can be too passionate and the opitimity of what Rugby stands against. I have said so many times. And I also believe some context needs to be taken into account with Saturday's win for Ireland. They're a really good team! Settled coaching staff, and bar a few legends retiring, they've had a full season and plenty of time together. We have some youngsters being groomed for the future, have played only 3 games now under a new coaching team with new philosophies and game plans. I'm excited by what the future of this team holds, as much as I am disappointed by the result. But unlike this article suggests, I am never going to take away from what Ireland has achieved, is achieving, and where they're heading. As a Rugby fan, I love the tight games, like the last two weekends. As a Bok Super Fan, I agree we don't perform as well as we should. And as an aside, you come play a game at 7am on our fields, bud. -2°c and frost on the field that is as hard as concrete…. Then we’ll see just how tough you are. Well done Ireland! They played well, and gave our boys a lot to think about. That's what you want from the top two teams in the world. Rugby won. The fans of this greatbsport won. A'n bullshit like this article is why Rugby is losing its identity. I don't like soccer. This article perpetuates the soccer influences the game of Rugby is starting to see. It's why Wayne Barnes retired, feared for his family, and he isn't the only ref to say so. I have called out many Bok fans for being an embarrassment to the game, and I will continue to do so., this article is close to the same bullshit. You should be better.

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