Rugby Union

Israel Folau on the mend but that’s only half the problem for NSW Waratahs

Game-breaking Wallabies fullback Israel Folau is ahead of schedule following ankle surgery, but it is the five-eighth spot that is most exercising the mind of new Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson.

The former All Blacks Test centre is gradually seeing the post Rugby World Cup injury clouds over his side dissipate. Folau, winger Rob Horne and lock Will Skelton (both shoulder) are all on track for the opening round of Super Rugby next month.

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Foley's burnout a concern for Tahs

New Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson is on the lookout for a new fly-half with Bernard Foley expected to miss part of this year's Super Rugby campaign.

Folau required an ankle operation after last year's World Cup.

"The good news on Folau is he's running next week with a view to giving himself a month to get right for the final trial," Gibson said on Wednesday. "He's well on track, probably ahead of schedule. He's healed well. I think the break has been good for his head space and good for his body.

On the run: The Waratahs train at Moore Park on Wednesday.
On the run: The Waratahs train at Moore Park on Wednesday. Photo: Cameron Spencer

"Rob Horne has been training without any difficulties, so at the moment things are going well for him. Will Skelton is on track to play the first or second trial."

The five-eighth spot is posing the biggest question for Gibson, who has taken over from 2014 title-winning coach Michael Cheika.


Wallabies five-eighth Bernard Foley will be coming off a season in Japan. Gibson would love to have the luxury of easing the talented playmaker back into another torrid Super Rugby campaign after a heavy year with little break.

He revealed the Waratahs were confident of adding another Japan-based Australian playmaker to their list and that Wallaby utility back Kurtley Beale had been running a lot at five-eighth during the pre-season.

"His [Foley's Japanese] team hasn't won a game, so I don't know what head space he's in," Gibson said. "But it would be a nice luxury to be able to not play Foley in the first [Super] game."

The Waratahs will play trials against the Brumbies in Wagga Wagga on February 6 followed by the Chiefs in Rotorua on February 12 and reigning champions the Highlanders in Queenstown on February 19.

Most Wallabies don't normally play the first trial of the season but Gibson didn't rule out using some against the Brumbies.

He described the recent addition to the 2016 roster of Wallabies and Waratahs No.8 Wycliff Palu as an added bonus.