Rugby: Folau out to hit new heights

By Darren Walton

Israel Folau of the Waratahs. Photo / Getty Images
Israel Folau of the Waratahs. Photo / Getty Images

He's already at another level, but superstar fullback Israel Folau is hoping to raise his game to impossible new heights in the Waratahs' semi-final against the Brumbies tomorrow.

Folau is the competition's leading tryscorer and most marked man, but says he's saving his best for the business end of the season.

The code-hopping freak last tasted finals football with the Brisbane Broncos in the NRL in 2009 and is jumping out of his skin ahead of his return to the sudden-death pressure cooker at Allianz Stadium.

"As a player, when I was a young kid, you always wanted to play in those big games," Folau said this week. "There's nothing better than going out there and performing at your best and that's what every player wants to do. You want to give 150 per cent on big games and that's what I enjoy. I look at it as something you train so hard for and that's the fun part about it - when you go out and play the game."

The fullback missed the Waratahs' thrashing of the Reds with a corked thigh, but insists he's back to 100 per cent for the Brumbies showdown.

Coach Michael Cheika is backing his attacking wonder to walk the walk against the Waratahs' arch rivals.

"He's obviously a good player and one of the hallmarks of good players is when the big days are on, they're there," Cheika said. "More often than not, if you have a look at Israel since he's come to rugby union, when he's been required by either us or by Australia, with only one year and a bit's experience in the game, he's stood up and delivered."

Chirpy Brumbies halfback Nic White says whoever sledged Folau during their last clash "poked the wrong bear".

White insists it wasn't him and hopes whoever it was won't make the same mistake again in Saturday's do-or-die semifinal.

"It didn't work that time, so I don't think they'll be doing it this time."

Folau lit a fuse earlier in the week when he revealed that Wallabies teammates playing for the Brumbies sledged him during the Waratahs' 39-8 victory last month.

Some pointed their finger at White, because Folau singled him out ahead of that clash by stating that the Wallabies' first-choice scrumhalf had "a fair bit to say".

But White's denial comes with a plausible alibi. "He's a long, long way away from me. I've got my head in there with the forwards," White said.

White, who is one of the Brumbies' main kickers, said he wouldn't be tailoring his game to deny Folau any counter-attacking opportunities.

"It doesn't matter what you throw at Izzy. He's going to make it work," White said. "You've got to be on your game as there's not one technique that will work against him. He's a genuine freak."

- AAP

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