Rugby Union

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Folau backed to blossom from Tah to Wallaby star

 WARATAHS recruit Israel Folau has the potential to follow Sonny Bill Williams's footsteps and be ''a real star'' at Super Rugby and Test level, says World Cup-winning All Black Richard Kahui.

Kahui, who played alongside Williams in the Chiefs' midfield for a significant portion of last year's Super Rugby tournament, was in no doubt Folau had the tools to emulate the Sydney Roosters-bound centre.

''You saw Sonny and the strides he made in Super Rugby and I think Israel Folau can be the same and be the next big thing,'' Kahui said.

''Obviously he [Folau] was a phenomenal league player and then made the transition to AFL, so there will be a lot of things he would have picked up playing AFL - work rate, his kicking game, things like that. I think he could potentially be a real star in Super Rugby and international rugby.''

Folau's recruitment to the Waratahs has not been universally welcomed, as doubts were raised about his ability to adapt to a third code in a relatively short space of time. But Williams's success in the 15-man game and the combination of Folau's size and pace has stirred up some interest across the ditch.

Kahui, who plays at outside-centre for the Chiefs but was one of the World Cup's outstanding wingers, said Folau had the ability to play in several positions, but felt his immediate future was with numbers 13, 11 or 14 on his back.


''I'm sure he will have the ability to offload, he did in league, so when you put all those skills together, maybe centre would be a position that would suit him,'' Kahui said.

Although the likes of Ma'a Nonu and Williams had transformed the inside-centre role with their combination of size and power, Kahui believed the demands of the position in the modern game - they also have to read opportunities in the way a No.10 does - might take it out of reach for Folau in the short term.

''When you start looking at somewhere around No.12, it's probably a bit more complicated to play for someone who hasn't played any footy,'' Kahui said.

''If he started at wing or centre maybe he could work his way in … but anywhere where he can get as much ball as he can, that would be the best for him, and best for whichever team he is playing for.''

The Chiefs are no strangers to Folau's talents. Coach Dave Rennie revealed on New Zealand television last year that he and assistant coach Wayne Smith had spoken to Folau while they were in Sydney for the opening Bledisloe Test in August. Although both came away impressed, the discussions went no further as Folau was committed to his AFL deal at that time.

Folau was not included in the Wallabies' 49-man logistics squad last week, although Wallabies management played down the significance of that decision. He will get his first chance to impress coach Robbie Deans when the Waratahs open their season against the Reds in Brisbane on February 23.