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Reds on guard for Folau's roaming mission

Date

Jim Morton

''Obviously when he touches the ball, he's pretty handy" ... Ewen McKenzie on Israel Folau.

''Obviously when he touches the ball, he's pretty handy" ... Ewen McKenzie on Israel Folau. Photo: Brendan Esposito

THE Queensland Reds expect former Suncorp Stadium favourite Israel Folau to enjoy a Digby Ioane-like roaming role when he turns into a sky blue villain on Saturday night.

Ex-Queensland State of Origin league star Folau makes an intriguing return to Brisbane's ''Cauldron'' for the Waratahs in Super Rugby's interstate grudge match.

A near-capacity crowd of 50,000 is expected for what will be the 23-year-old's top-flight rugby debut, coming after he left Brisbane and the NRL in 2010 for a failed GWS Giants stint in the AFL.

Already an instant trial hit for the Waratahs, it will be interesting to see what reception Folau receives at Suncorp, even though few expect the same abuse dished out to another former Broncos winger, Wendell Sailor, when he debuted for the Waratahs in 2006. Reds coaching boss Ewen McKenzie is planning to expose the code-jumper but admitted Folau, likely to start at fullback, was a definite dangerman for the Reds to contain.

''Obviously when he touches the ball, he's pretty handy,'' he said. ''He can step off both feet and he looks electric in that sense.

''We'll be making sure if he gets the ball, we won't give him much space. And we'll find other tactics to keep him busy.''

Folau showed his inexperience in the Waratahs' final trial match against the Crusaders by batting a grubber kick over the dead-ball line instead of grounding it, resulting in a penalty.

But while the rugby novice isn't yet up to speed with all the laws, McKenzie believes NSW coach Michael Cheika will ensure he enters the big-stage debut in a relaxed state with a licence to roam.

''He'll play pretty much unencumbered, probably not dissimilar to [Wallabies winger] Digby - with Digby, we just let him play,'' he said.

''We've got plays and moves but Digby roams and that's why he touches the ball more than anybody else in every game and breaks more tackles. Players like that, you want them to touch the ball.''

AAP

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NZL 20 vs ENG 15 Report Stats
AUS 50 vs FRA 23 Report Stats
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ARG 17 vs IRE 29 Report Stats
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CAN 25 vs JPN 34 Report Stats
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SAM 15 vs ITA Report Stats
FJI 45 vs TGA 17 Report Stats
NZL 28 vs ENG 27 Report Stats
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