Tuqiri advises Folau on switch
"I reckon [Folau] will be playing for the wallabies in no time" ... Lote Tuqiri. Photo: Peter Stoop
DUAL international Lote Tuqiri has counselled Waratahs recruit Israel Folau about adapting to rugby and handling the pressures of being a high-profile arrival to the game.
Tuqiri, who left the Brisbane Broncos to play for the Waratahs and Wallabies from 2002 to 2009 before returning to the NRL to play for Wests Tigers, spoke to Folau last week. The veteran of 67 rugby Tests knows about being under public scrutiny as a code-switcher. Tuqiri has also offered to be on call for Folau - who joined rugby after two years in the AFL - for advice should he need it as he settles into his career in rugby union.
''I've spoken to him already. But the line is open and he knows that,'' Tuqiri told Fairfax Media. He believes Folau has the credentials to succeed in rugby and will soon become a Wallaby. But his view is that Folau should settle in to his likely starting position as a winger before considering any switch to the centres - and that fullback might be a better option before then.
Tuqiri said a challenge for Folau would be adapting to law interpretations of by rugby referees. ''He will be under a bit of pressure to perform again [as he was in AFL], but luckily he is probably a bit more well versed in what is going on. He hasn't played rugby for a while, but I think he will make a transition easily. He will also have picked up a few skills from AFL that will serve him well in kicking.
''Hopefully, he has learned to kick off both feet, because that will always be a string in your bow in rugby if he is to play in the back three. I think he will predominantly play on the wing, or I reckon he should, from what I have seen. I don't think they should rush him into any other position for now. Keep him on the wing and start him there. If he is keen to move somewhere else then I'll probably have a chat to him.
''He played centre at rugby league, but that is a hell of a lot different to playing centre in union. In league you have to stick to the one side of the field, whereas in rugby you are playing defence on both sides … you are playing attack on both sides … and you are changing now and then.
''He could even play fullback because he is good under the high ball. And if he has that kicking game down pat, he could play that position as well. But I reckon he'll go really well on the wing and will be playing for the Wallabies in no time.''
However, to get the best of Folau, Tuqiri said it was vital the Waratahs played an expansive game, although Tuqiri said there were strong signs that would be the case under new NSW coach Michael Cheika.
''They will be a tough team if they are anything like what I have heard - where they play tough up front and throw the ball around the backs,'' Tuqiri said. ''That's where he will get a bit of ball to show what he can do with the footy.''
However, Tuqiri warned that the refereeing in rugby could be difficult for Folau when ''there are so many varying interpretations of the law - and with Australian, New Zealand and South African referees in Super Rugby, and if he plays Test matches, different interpretations again.''
Tuqiri said he would ''would love to see'' Folau play league again, but saw a future for him in rugby that would last well beyond his one-year contract at NSW. ''A happy athlete will give only their best game. And if he is happy there, he will hang around.''
One thing Tuqiri believes Folau should not underestimate is the opportunity of playing Sevens rugby for Australia at the 2014 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Tuqiri, who played Sevens for Australia at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games, said: ''To have a chance to be a part of it would be unbelievable. Being at an opening ceremony in the athletes village and everything else was one of my treasured experiences of playing rugby.''
Meanwhile, Tuqiri said he was optimistic about ''nutting out'' his contract with Wests Tigers soon - he is yet to sign a deal for this year but is hopeful of resolving the issue in the near future.
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