Rugby: Folau on track for test debut against Lions, Deans says

Israel Folau.  Photo / Getty Images
Israel Folau. Photo / Getty Images

Wallabies coach Robbie Deans says Israel Folau is "not that far away" from making a test debut against the Lions in June.

Folau is the youngest player to represent Australia in league and now appears on track to become a dual-international in the toughest of arenas.

The cross-code star is just two Super rugby games into his union career, but Deans confirmed yesterday that Folau is firmly on his radar.

Deans said the major challenge for the former AFL player would be to find the right instincts in contact and at the breakdown before a 25-man Wallabies squad is picked three weeks out from the first test on June 22.

"Well, he's not that far away," said Deans. "He's on the radar.

"His entry into union has been very good. It's not easy going from AFL to union, so he's shown enough encouraging signs and we'll just keep watching.

"The tough area for Israel is the contact area and that's one he'll have to master and master quickly, but he's smart and he'll get that done."

It seemed a Wallabies debut in June would be an unlikely scenario for Folau after he struggled against Queensland two weeks ago.

However, his work in setting up two second-half tries against Melbourne last Friday showed the 23-year-old has the skills to be a star, provided he can pick up on the finer details.

Deans said yesterday that he'll lean towards experience when picking his Wallaby squad, because of the lack of preparation his side will have heading into the three-test tour against the Lions, who last visited Australia in 2001.

However, the exception to the rule is Folau.

Deans is confident Folau's track record of dominating in State of Origin, tests and grand finals in league have him well placed to excel in the cauldron of a Lions series.

"He's a bloke who is not going to be daunted by the occasion," he said.

"He's gone through a rapid learning curve in two weeks. He's shown he has the capacity to learn and he's clearly got some skills that are of value.

"Whether he can master those instinctive responses fast enough - but there's 15 rounds of Super rugby, so that's a good apprenticeship."

- AAP

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