Rugby: Folau likely to bounce back - Deans

By Ben Horne

Israel Folau had a tough outing against the Reds. Photo / Getty Images
Israel Folau had a tough outing against the Reds. Photo / Getty Images

Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has no doubt Israel Folau will bounce back strongly from his error-marred Super rugby debut.

Deans yesterday supported Waratahs coach Michael Cheika's decision to play cross-code star Folau at fullback where he was found wanting several times in last Saturday night's loss to the Reds.

Folau spilled the ball a couple of times in contact, was caught flat-footed defending his line when Reds wing Dom Shipperley scored an early try and was unable to stop a charging Ed Quirk before he off-loaded for Ben Tapuai's match-sealing try.

"It was a baptism of fire obviously," said Deans. "It was always going to be. But he's a class footballer and he'll be back, don't worry about that."

Deans could not argue with Cheika playing Folau at fullback rather than easing him in through a more familiar wing or midfield spot.

"It's easy from the grandstand. But he [Cheika] based his decision on a lot of background, from what he'd witnessed on the training ground and seen in pre-season fixtures," he said.

The Australian Rugby Union on Sunday started the 100-day count-down to the British and Irish Lions tour which kicks off on June 5. By the time the first test rolls around on June 22, Folau would have had nearly a full season of Super rugby under his belt. Deans said it was too talk about Folau's test chances.

•Former Wallabies star George Smith is returning to Australia to rejoin the Brumbies for the rest of the Super Rugby season. The veteran of 110 tests, openside flanker Smith will arrive later this week to take up a short-term contract after helping his Japanese club Suntory to their fifth title on Sunday. He remains contracted to Suntory but is available for an off-season stint - something he did with French club Stade Francais last year. AAP

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