- Reds and Japan fullback the world's highest paid player
- Waratahs coach predicts fierce competition for places
Fullback is the position Israel Folau feels most comfortable at despite Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson's desire for the Wallabies star to make a move to outside centre for the upcoming Super Rugby season.
Folau will wear the number 15 jersey in the Waratahs' final pre-season trial against the Highlanders in Queenstown on Friday and is eager to join the squad on Wednesday and get back playing after ankle surgery.
"I had a couple of sessions with the team before they went off to New Zealand, so it was good to get that under my belt and I'll get over there tomorrow and have a another run on Wednesday and Thursday and play Friday," Folau said.
There has been no shortage of discussion about how the Waratahs' backline will come together – given they boast a plethora of stars who have played all over the park throughout their career – but no one's name pops up more than that of Folau.
Gibson said earlier this year he would like to see Folau start at outside centre with the intention of putting Kurtley Beale at fullback.
Although Folau says he would rather play fullback, he has made it clear he will do whatever Gibson wants in order for the Waratahs to have success in 2016.
"Definitely my preferred position is fullback," Folau said. "I've spent most of my time playing there so that's where I feel most comfortable. Fifteen [fullback] is probably the position that I know I'll be playing at this stage [in the trial]. I'm not even sure whether I'll play there [outside centre] at all. Most people have asked, but we'll see how the season goes. I'm definitely open to it; it's an exciting opportunity to be open to a challenge like that. I'm not sure what the plans are from Daryl. I haven't spoken to him in depth about what position I'll be playing."
Whether or not Folau is actually in the dark about where he will line up for game one against the Reds is debatable, but one thing Folau is certain about is that his troublesome ankle has completely healed.
The 26-year-old had a slightly different pre-season to his teammates as he recovered from ankle surgery following Australia's World Cup campaign.
"I'm pretty confident about how I feel and how the ankle's going, so it'll be good to get out there and play some footy again," Folau said. "Surgery went smoothly, the rehab's been pretty good, so I haven't spent too much time worrying about the ankle, everything's on track and on time. It was always the plan to have a run on in the last trial going into the first game, so I'm excited."
Folau had a quieter World Cup campaign than he would have hoped for, more or less due to the niggling ankle injury which hampered his ability to reproduce shades of the Folau who burst onto the rugby scene in 2013.
"It was pretty frustrating during the tournament when I hurt my ankle ... so I had to carry that through right up until the final," he said. "It was frustrating knowing I couldn't play to my full potential, but I did my best and I enjoyed the experience during the World Cup so there was no regrets. It's all done now and I'm looking forward to the season."
Asked where he would like to see Beale play, Folau said it was up to Gibson, but expressed his optimism at a strong Waratahs backline that get its first proper chance to gel together on Friday.
"Whatever position he [Beale] gets put in, he does pretty well," Folau said. "He's had a run at fullback and he's done well, and he's played at 10 [five-eighth] so I'm not sure what preferred position KB has [locked up]. It's interesting what will happen. It's an exciting backline. With guys like Zac Guildford and Reece Robinson in the team this year it's exciting to play with those guys. It's definitely an exciting team to be a part of."