Rebels 16 Waratahs 24

Folau

Try, try again ... Israel Folau celebrates after scoring in Hobart. Photo: Adam Freier

ISRAEL FOLAU experienced it all in his rugby union debut for the Waratahs on Saturday night. He scored two tries, set one up, made bruising tackles, got yellow-carded, played on both wings and in the centres, and finally earned praise from Wallabies coach Robbie Deans.

Deans was typically reluctant to elaborate on his view of Folau's first professional rugby game against the Melbourne Rebels at North Hobart Stadium, won by NSW 24-16. But when pressed, he said: ''He is obviously going well with his involvement. It's great to see him in union.''

The 23-year-old Folau, now playing his third code of football after NRL and AFL, wasn't reading too much into Deans's presence at the game - or his words. ''I am just going to take each week as it comes,'' he said. ''I don't want to look too far ahead of myself. If I do that then other things can fall into place.''

Israel Folau of the Waratahs breaks through the Rebels defence to score the first try. Click for more photos

Israel Folau and the Waratahs defeat the Melbourne Rebels

Israel Folau of the Waratahs breaks through the Rebels defence to score the first try. Photo: Getty Images

However, it was clear the former Melbourne Storm and Brisbane Broncos player, who joined the Waratahs last December after ending his two-year spell (as part of a four-year contract) with AFL side Greater Western Sydney, loved every minute of his night - apart from his 53rd-minute yellow card.

''I felt really comfortable, to be honest,'' Folau said. ''It's like I never left a game like rugby. I felt relaxed through the day and that's the way I felt coming in to the game.''

He said, however, there was still much for him to improve on during the Waratahs' next two trial games.

Israel Folau

Starting well ... Israel Folau. Photo: Getty Images

''I played a bit of everything in the back three and that last try [in the 81st minute], I just found myself at the right spot at the right time,'' Folau said. ''I think today I can learn a lot from the game and there is certainly a long way to go in terms of learning a few things in both attack and defence.

''[It is] mainly [in] defence. As a fullback sometimes you have to come up and join the line there. I've just got to learn to do it at the right time.''

Folau said he would bring his kicking game into play further down the track as he settled into his position at fullback. ''When I feel comfortable in a game it will come in. I didn't get the chance to show those skills but as the weeks go on, I will implement that,'' he said.

Folau was yellow-carded for a breakdown infringement but he seemed not realise his mistake until later when he was told by teammates. ''I think I didn't roll away quick enough. I think someone else in our team got pinged before that,'' he said, adding of his mandatory time on the sidelines: ''I came off straight to the wing and the boys said I had to get off. I was a bit confused once I got off and the boys [on the bench] explained why I got sent off.''

As a consequence, the Rebels, then 19-11 down, were quick to pounce. Three minutes later Rebels centre Tom English scored to bridge the gap to just three points. But importantly, when he returned to play, Folau soon got involved again - rather than go into his shell as some debutants may have.

Even better, Folau scored his second try to secure NSW's win when he received the ball after finding himself in the centres.

''That is something that I've [had to] work on over the years,'' Folau said of his ability to bounce back from his first rugby yellow-card setback. ''When something doesn't go my way, I just have to get on with it. You can't change the decision. And next time I come back on the field, just focus on what I have to do next.''

It is worth remembering that Waratahs coach Michael Cheika expected Folau's first game would not be fault-free. The positives outweighed the negatives in a match that saw him play the game at fullback, barring spells on both wings and in the centres after half-time.

''Positionally, he was in much better sync than I thought he might have been,'' Cheika said. ''In transition a couple of times when we were on attack, he was in position, [and] caught the ball on the full a couple of times.

''[He] made a couple of tackles at the end of the line at the right section of the field because he doesn't always close it down. Those things he has really picked up well. His natural talent showed on a couple of occasions very well.''

Twitter: @rupertguinness