Finegan: Folau to bring the X-factor
Israel Folau has signed a 1 year deal with the NSW Waratahs. Photo: Anthony Johnson
Wallabies great Owen Finegan has urged rugby to embrace Israel Folau even if he uses the sport as a stopgap mercenary dash to make a return to the NRL in 2014.
And while Folau's multimillion-dollar stint in the AFL with the GWS Giants was a disaster, Finegan is convinced the powerful winger can be one of the best rugby league converts to join Super Rugby.
Folau controversially signed a one-year deal to play rugby union with the NSW Waratahs on Tuesday.
It will be the third football code Folau has played in the past four years, after starting his career in the NRL and then taking up a $6 million deal with the Giants before quitting AFL last month.
While Folau is already being linked to a return to rugby league in 2014, Finegan - who played 55 Tests for the Wallabies - was unequivocal when asked what impact the 23-year-old would have on Super Rugby.
''A big name like that brings a lot of publicity,'' Finegan said. ''It's the same as Wendell Sailor, Lote Tuqiri and Mat Rogers when they came across - Folau is as good as any one of them.
''Just look at the success Joe Tomane had [for the ACT Brumbies] last season … it doesn't seem like it's a money-grabbing thing to me.
''Maybe he was fed up with the NRL and you'd think being an outside back for rugby union, he's been at the pinnacle, has the X-factor and every team would love to get a hold of that.''
The Brumbies took a gamble on recruiting Tomane - a former Melbourne Storm and Gold Coast Titans centre - last year.
Although the now 22-year-old Tomane was a schoolboy rugby star, he admitted it took him time to find his feet at the Brumbies.
When he found his form, he showed how devastating he could be and was rewarded with his first Test cap against Scotland in June.
Finegan has backed Folau to make an impressive rise through the rugby ranks when his first season begins.
It's understood Folau has not received an ARU ''top-up'' with his Waratahs contract, but if he plays well enough he could be in contention for a Wallabies call-up for the mid-year series against the British and Irish Lions.
Former Brumbies assistant coach Marco Caputo insisted Folau had the attributes to be a star.
''This is a good way to put himself in the shop window if he wants to go to Europe and play in places like France and England,'' Caputo, an ex-Wallabies hooker, said.
''He's giving himself a year and if he likes it in rugby, it will present other opportunities down the track.
''Folau has all those things you can't coach in players … that freakish ability.
''I think he'll do well, whether he signed for the Sydney Kings [in NBL] or whatever, he's got the talent to do well in whatever he tries.''