Vote of confidence: Bernard Foley scores a try for the Waratahs against the Hurricanes on Saturday night. Photo: Getty Images
All Blacks great Andrew Mehrtens says Waratahs five-eighth Bernard Foley must be considered for the Wallabies No.10 jersey this year.
While the debate over the pivotal position has revolved around the merits and pitfalls of Quade Cooper versus Matt Toomua, Mehrtens said Australia coach Ewen McKenzie would ignore Foley at his peril in the lead up to next year's World Cup.
"I really like Foley. Before I ever met him I watched him on [the Wallabies end of year tour] last year and I loved when he came on at fullback against Wales," Mehrtens said.
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"He just looked full of energy, full of running, and he had a go in a good way, not just for the sake of it. You know he is dangerous, he brings the ball up to the line and if he senses an opportunity he has a crack, but not in a greedy way."
The 77-Test All Black acknowledged Toomua was making a powerful case for selection as five-eighth for Australian conference leaders the Brumbies but questioned whether the Wallabies could sustain another World Cup campaign with Cooper at No.10.
"I just wonder with Cooper that if he doesn't have dominance in front of him, he isn't the same player," Mehrtens said. "No fly half is really, if they don't have dominance in front, but I think he relies on that front-foot ball a lot more and I wonder whether the Wallabies will get that much against the All Blacks, for example.
"It's a combination thing too and I don't know if Quade's style suits the midfield Australia is likely to put out there. In fact, I don't know what midfield it does suit at the moment. Under pressure, he runs up his own tail a bit too much.
"There is no doubting he has a lot of skill and a lot of talent, I just think there are guys operating a little more cleanly at the moment in that No.10 role at the moment."
After a breakout season in the Waratahs No.10 jersey last year, 2014 has been a slow burn for Foley, a former Australian sevens player of the year who made his Wallabies debut with a try against Argentina less than 12 months ago.
Swamped by big name back-line players Israel Folau, Kurtley Beale and Adam Ashley-Cooper, Foley has toiled away at five-eighth with a brief to straighten the Waratahs' attack and work on his leadership.
It hasn't always come off as planned. The bonus-point try bonanzas dried up in South Africa and Foley, Beale and halfback Nick Phipps went on a hunt for answers.
On Saturday night, after the Waratahs' five-try 39-30 lesson to the Hurricanes, NSW coach Michael Cheika hailed their contributions as season-best performances.
"[Foley and Phipps] are still very young [in age] but also maybe they haven't been handed the idea that they are looking after everyone else as well," Cheika said.
"Both of the lads took a big step up in maturity in not just looking after their own game but looking after the other lads as well in the way they set up the team.
"I thought Beale alongside, that was outstanding. When we went [24-7] down, he and Foley stood up and tried to control the game to put us back in the picture and that was very good."
Mehrtens, who works with Foley as the side's part-time kicking consultant, said the 24-year-old's form warranted a Test call-up.
"As a No.10 he has the skills, he has a lot of heart, he tackles well and attacks well and I think the goal kicking has been bloody good this year as well," he said.
"Kicking and goal kicking has never been something he's had to rely on so much because he's so talented, but the more kicking he does – whether it's out of hand or goal kicking – the more consistent he is getting.
‘‘Where you wouldn't normally have called him a natural goal kicker a year or two ago, I think he's a lot more so now."