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Israel Folau happy with his game despite lean trot on tries

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Folau set to tackle Bledisloe Cup

The Bledisloe Cup remains unchecked on Israel Folau’s to-do list, as the Wallabies look to break the All Blacks 11-year dominance.

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It is the rarest case of second-year syndrome and Israel Folau says he is a willing sufferer if it helps the Wallabies pull off a drought-breaking Bledisloe Cup win this year. 

Folau finished the season as Super Rugby's joint-top try-scorer and bagged a double for the Wallabies against France less than two months ago. 

By anyone's standards, it was another golden year for the dual international. 

Numbers game: Tries have dried up for Israel Folau.

Numbers game: Tries have dried up for Israel Folau. Photo: Getty Images

But amid whispers that he had not set games alight towards the end of the Waratahs' title-winning season, Folau said he was happy to be a team player if it meant his teams won big games. 

"For most people they probably see those games as being quiet," he said.

"In that Brumbies [semi-final] game we didn't see too much ball, but looking back at the final against the Crusaders, watching the game over again, I was pretty happy with how I contributed to the game.

"The only thing that stands out for most people is that I'm not scoring tries, but I'm really happy with how things are going." 

And so he should be, after twice attracting defenders outside Adam Ashley-Cooper and presenting the classy finisher with a gap to bolt through and score twice in the final. 

"For me, watching that, you know the defence is thinking about me during those plays," Folau said.

"You know you create opportunities for other guys around you, so that's the evidence there that I'm doing my job for the team.

"It's not always getting the ball in hand and scoring tries – that's what most people see when something like that goes missing. But that's clear evidence for me that I'm doing my job for the team, when I'm creating opportuniteis for the guys around me.

"I'm very excited about that."

Dig past the numbers and a tale of two seasons emerges. 

Folau scored two-thirds of his tries in the first four games of the Waratahs' season and none at all in their two-game finals campaign. 

At international level, he scored a double against the British and Irish Lions in his Test debut before Warren Gatland found ways to keep the Wallabies then-winger comparatively quiet for the rest of the series.

It took Folau two warm-ups against the All Blacks and a hat-trick in the Wallabies' watershed Rosario victory against Argentina before he scored his first five-pointer against New Zealand, in Dunedin last October.

He averaged a try a Test against France this year, before heading back to the Waratahs to continue the march towards the club's maiden Super Rugby title. 

And if the tries dried up towards the end of the Super Rugby season, the effort did not. He topped the regular season for offloads and finished second on clean breaks and run metres, playing a pivotal role in the Waratahs' march to the minor premiership and top ranking overall on tries, clean breaks, carries, run metres, tackle busts and offloads. 

If 2013 was the year of Folau's arrival, 2014 could be the year of his evolution. 

"I think my game knowledge is a lot better, just from the experience of playing games at Test level," he said.

"That's something you only get through playing and I'm more playing on a free-flowing energy now, where I'm just feeling my way through the games, not really getting nervous but going in there really excited and enjoying the game."

The Wallabies have not beaten the All Blacks since a 25-20 win in Brisbane in 2011, the same year the Reds beat the Crusaders in the Super Rugby final. 

But before the parallels are drawn and victory foretold, the man who lives for the big games wants the Wallabies to focus on themselves.

"It's disappointing, the results, but it's done and dusted now where we're excited about what's ahead of us," Folau said.

"The group is pretty confident and after a year together, especially with Link [coach Ewen McKenzie], we know what type of style we want to play and hopefully we will bring that on Saturday night."

13 comments so far

  • The tries have dried up because the opposition are better and have better defensive patterns. That's usually the case when you get to the play offs in Super rugby. Folau is no longer running through bunny teams like the Reds and Rebels as he was earlier in the year. Nothing will change on Saturday either as the AB's shut him down again.

    Commenter
    rexhapi
    Date and time
    August 11, 2014, 10:52PM
    • Yes spot on and nothing will change this Saturday night.

      Commenter
      Flash
      Date and time
      August 12, 2014, 6:37AM
      • Poor kiwis. Their arrogant blindness can't see what's coming. They think they are clever because the AIG Nuns have been able to bumble their way thru the last 6 years with the most incompetent coach on the planet, a kiwi surprise surprise, sabotaging the Wallabies.
        Graeme Henry had it awfully easy when all he had to compete with was Deans, and De Villiers coaching the Boks. The coaching equivalent of dumb and dumber.
        I'm picking Folau to explode in the upcoming games.

        Commenter
        Johnny-boy
        Date and time
        August 12, 2014, 7:51AM
        • Good Lord, if he explodes won't that make an awful mess?

          Commenter
          Shane D
          Location
          Perth
          Date and time
          August 12, 2014, 9:44AM
      • The other thing no-one seems to mention is his ability to beat the gain line. During the super final, against the excellent crusaders outfit, he got outside his man and made 5m on numerous occasions. I think this contributed an awful lot to the Tah's quick and front foot ball at critical times. Whether he scores tries or not, if he can consistently get that extra couple of metres past the gain against the ABs, he'll be doing well and helping the Wallabies massively.

        Commenter
        Shrek
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        August 12, 2014, 8:20AM
        • @ Shrek

          Good observations... it doesn't really matter whether Izzy is scoring tries or not but rather, when he does get the ball, as you astutely mentioned, he gains meters. Thus putting the Wallaby on the front foot for the next phase. Continually making meters over the gain-line, and good ball retention phase after phase, will eventually lead to points. And it's points that win matches !

          Commenter
          Machooka
          Location
          inner west sydney
          Date and time
          August 12, 2014, 10:44AM
        • Spot on, every time he got the ball he seemed to get back over the advantage line, had a really good game in the final. Now he needs to convert that form into the test arena, which he should be able to do. Will also need to stay defensively strong, Savea and co are going to be hard to stop

          Commenter
          Houston
          Date and time
          August 12, 2014, 10:53AM
      • no no he is crap, kick him out no need for him in the team..

        Would love him not to be in the team... he is too much of a threat to the boks !!!

        hahah .... will be good to watch Le Roux go head to head with him again... he is a class act aswell

        Commenter
        springbok87
        Date and time
        August 12, 2014, 8:44AM
        • This guy is an absolutely gifted player and a class act off the field as well.

          You would have to have something wrong with you to level any criticism of what he has achieved in only two years.

          I hope the guy absolutely tears it up against the AB's. If he doesn't score a try....so what....here is a bloke who so clearly wants to win, inspires his team mates and keeps the opposition in 2 minds just about every time he touches the ball.

          Go Wallabies !

          Commenter
          rossco
          Date and time
          August 12, 2014, 8:49AM
          • With an attitude like that, the ARU must do whatever it takes to keep him. He's spot on - the other teams are so nervous about letting him loose he's sucking in defence that should be keeping an equal eye on blokes like AAC, and the tries come. Just love that he doesn't care who scores them, as long as they get scored and he's played his part. Saturday should be a cracker no matter who wins, but Go Wallabies!

            Commenter
            Harvey K-Tel
            Date and time
            August 12, 2014, 9:53AM

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