Rugby: Israel Folau and Wallabies relishing England challenge

Wallaby star Israel Folau. Photo / Getty Images
Wallaby star Israel Folau. Photo / Getty Images

Israel Folau is fired up for rugby's "Bodyline series" next month by the frustration he could only hit England with 50 per cent of his strikepower at last year's World Cup.

Folau's desire to get back to his world-beating best for the Wallabies in the combative three-Test series perfectly suits the bring-it-on call that coach Michael Cheika threw back at England's Six Nations champions.

"Big, physical, everyone knows what England are going to bring," Cheika said.

"I think they've phrased it Bodyline which I think is code for 'We're going to come down here and smash you'.

"Good play, it's a contact sport, we love it and it's going to start in Brisbane (in the first Test on June 11)."

Cheika said jerseymaker Asics' new "Want It More" television slogan hit the mark with his own team ethos that "we want to make sure we are never out-prepared for any Test".

Wednesday's unveiling of the new ultra-lightweight Wallabies jersey in Sydney met with a strong thumbs up because it amplified a clean Southern Cross emblem on the right shoulder rather than one mixed in with a bigger jersey tattoo, as was last year's World Cup style.

A return to a real collar rather than a T-shirt neckline is also a winner but the Wallabies would wear a yellow Wiggles skivvy if they could guarantee a repeat of last season's excellent 83 per cent win rate because they exclusively face sides from the world's top nine rugby nations during this year's 15-Test schedule.

There is extra bite to Folau's Test ambitions personally and in a team sense because he is relishing the idea that the Wallabies can still make sharp improvements.

He was unfulfilled at last year's World Cup when an ankle injury in the rousing 33-13 thumping of England in pool play muted his impact for the rest of the tournament.
"The guys will be hungry when we come back together for that England series," Folau said of the May 29 camp starting at Caloundra.

"We can't rely on how we played last year. There's good groundwork that will come through but, as players, we know we have not reached our full potential and that is exciting.

"It is a huge weight off my shoulders to be playing injury-free again and I really want to deliver in that series.

"My mind is more free with that frustration gone because I was rolling out there trying to play World Cup games knowing I was only at 50 per cent.

"Knowing I wasn't able to do all I could was hard."

Folau has been in strong form for the NSW Waratahs just as inside centre Kurtley Beale is a game-changer in the matchwinning mood of the outstanding 32-30 overthrow of the Stormers in Cape Town that has re-energised the team's season.

Beale said a call was imminent on whether a big-money deal to play overseas or stay with the Waratahs is his future.

Either way, Beale will have the comfort of knowing he has hit the 60-Test threshold to be selected to play for the Wallabies from anywhere in the world.

"It's obviously a big decision but to still get the chance to wear the gold jersey is something I want to be doing 100 per cent as long as possible," Beale said.

Beale said encouraging Indigenous youth to strive for their dreams was a part of him that he wanted to develop even more.

"Being an indigenous man, if I can have any effect on helping a young player get closer to his dreams I want to be giving back in that way because I know it's never easy growing up," Beale said.

Beale's dynamism or Matt Toomua's direct play is the big selection debate for inside centre at the Wallabies but anyone who watched how Beale and Bernard Foley operated together in Cape Town would know the best combination.

- news.com.au

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