Waratahs star Israel Folau has secret plans to take his game to a new level this Super Rugby season, starting with Sunday’s clash with the Western Force.
NSW have been spruiking their new-look midfield combination all week, but the big reveal in their attacking master plan is still to come in Sunday’s Super Rugby opener against the Western Force at Allianz Stadium.
Welcome to Israel Folau Reloaded.
The Wallabies superstar was player of the year in his debut season, but Waratahs coach Michael Cheika, as well as Australian Conference rivals, are confident Folau will go to a new level again in 2014.
Folau’s steamrolling running game will already be in the heads of the Force defence, but the 24-year-old cross-code phenomenon has been working hard on becoming the complete package as a rugby fullback.
Bernard Foley and Kurtley Beale will steer the Waratahs around the park this year, but expect Folau to also be getting his hands on the ball at first receiver.
What’s tougher than stopping Israel Folau?
Stopping Israel Folau when he takes the ball to the line and there’s the threat of the pass.
“He’s a different proposition if he’s taking the ball at first-receiver, running to the line. He’s going to drag guys in,” said Cheika.
“It might be that one moment in a game where he needs to do it and it could make a difference for us in the end result.
“I haven’t asked him to do it. But I think it’s only natural that a player of his quality, once he starts to understand the game, is going to want to vary his game between just running and taking guys on.”
It’s scary to think that Folau achieved all before him last year without fully understanding the game.
Queensland star and Wallabies teammate Will Genia says Folau was looking to emulate the ball-playing of his namesake – All Blacks star Israel Dagg.
“He’s hard enough to stop when he’s just running, but if he can add that variety to his game, it’ll just make him hard to predict,” said Genia.
“The best thing about it is the fact he wants to do it. He’s not just happy where he’s at. He wants to get better and evolve.”
Cheika has played down a theory that the Force will try and bog the Waratahs down with a dour playing style on Sunday.
“They’ve got a lot of genuine line-breaking threats and they’re a very hard-working outfit,” said Cheika.
“Those two qualities mean a lot of danger.”
Waratahs skipper Dave Dennis says his side were too easily put off their game plan last season, and are determined to play their attacking brand regardless of what the opposition are doing.
“If you look at what we’ve got out the back we’d be stupid to go into our shell,” he said.
Dennis said the Waratahs were wary of the unknown quantity posed by the Force’s South African contingent led by Wilhelm Steenkamp.