Tom Banks ready as Israel Folau waits on Rugby Australia decision

The ACT Brumbies' form turnaround and Israel Folau's off-field drama has opened the door for Tom Banks to force his way back into World Cup contention as the Wallabies' first-choice fullback.

The run to the Super Rugby finals will have a major impact on who will be the Wallabies' No. 15 this year if Folau is sacked by Rugby Australia this week.

Tom Banks has scored four tries in the Brumbies' past four games. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

Tom Banks has scored four tries in the Brumbies' past four games. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

Folau's future could be known as early as Wednesday as a three-person independent panel prepares to hand down its punishment after finding Folau guilty of a high-level breach of the professional players' code of conduct following a homophobic social media post.

The Folau saga has engulfed Australian rugby and has taken the gloss off a tense battle for a guaranteed ticket to the Super Rugby finals, with the Brumbies, Melbourne Rebels, NSW Waratahs and Queensland Reds all still in contention.

Banks has been slowly building form this season and has now scored four tries in the past five matches, coinciding with the Brumbies' return to form.

The two main challengers for the Wallabies' fullback role will be Melbourne's Dane Haylett-Petty and Waratahs star Kurtley Beale.

"I haven't really thought about any of that to be honest," Banks said. "We'll see what happens with everything going on.


"The fullback role and anything in the outside backs is always highly contested for the Wallabies. If the Brumbies are doing well then personally you'll hopefully be doing well.

"Hopefully if I focus on that, it will put me in a good position [for the Wallabies]. We've been building nicely [at the Brumbies] and we've just got to keep that moving from now on."

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika will gather his Test players for a camp in Brisbane next week as the next step in preparations for the World Cup.

Banks is expected to be included as a fullback or wing option, injured Brumbies back-rowers David Pocock, Lachlan McCaffrey and Rob Valetini are also in contention.

The Brumbies have won four of their past five matches and are at the top of the Australian conference, although that could be temporary if the Rebels beat the Pretoria Bulls on Friday night.

Folau, however, could be exiled from Australian rugby this week and his NSW coach Daryl Gibson says his on-field exploits will be sorely missed if he is sacked.

Israel Folau social media posts

Israel Folau social media posts

Termination of his four-year contract looks to be a near certainty, unless Folau's legal team can persuade the panel of John West, QC, Kate Eastman, SC, and John Boultbee that a fine and/or suspension is a fairer outcome.

There is also the likelihood of appeals to come, with Folau's team having 72 hours to lodge their intent to take the matter to another code of conduct hearing.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has already gone on the record and said that under current circumstances he "wouldn't be able to" pick Folau.

However, his Super Rugby coach, Gibson, has not explicitly said Folau would be banished from the Waratahs if there was an avenue for him to return.

There will be a clearer picture once a verdict is released but there have been murmurs the Waratahs, particularly early on, were taking a less hardline stance than RA on the matter.

Speaking on Tuesday, Gibson was asked if he had a plan B if Folau did not have his contract torn up by RA, which is supplemented by the Waratahs.

"That's very hypothetical and until we learn that fate we'll cross that bridge when we get to it," Gibson said. "We're still following it and it's in progress. It's a difficult one. We're no different to all the opinions in society.

"We're a team and have very diverse opinions on where we sit on everything. [It is about] managing that dynamic and the opportunity is for us to come together over a common purpose and that's what we've done."

The Waratahs need to beat the Reds this weekend if they want to stay in finals contention. The Brumbies have a bye this week before playing the Bulls, the Japan Sunwolves, the Waratahs and the Reds in their final four games of the regular season.

It is hoped Pocock will make his comeback against the Bulls on May 24 after being hampered by a calf problem for almost three months.