“We’re probably the underdog”: Israel Folau. Photo: Stuart Walmsley/ARUIsrael Folau admits the Wallabies could be a tad rusty in Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup opener, but has reiterated the party line that they are under no more pressure than their opponents.
Nanjing Night Net

Four Australian Super Rugby teams had finished their seasons by this time last month, while the Brumbies were in the race for an extra week before bowing out to the Highlanders in Canberra.

While the Wallabies have been training together for the best part of a month, there is a belief on the other side of the Tasman that players involved in Super Rugby finals matches will be better off than the Australians who have been bunkered down in the gym and on the training paddock.

Folau, who last played for the Waratahs against the Auckland Blues at Eden Park on July 15, conceded there could be a degree of rustiness come Saturday evening at ANZ Stadium, which might affect the Wallabies’ chances of regaining the Bledisloe for the first time since 2002.

“There could be yeah and that’s the way it is when you haven’t played footy for a bit of time,” Folau said. “The guys know that there’s never a perfect game, training is never perfect as well so we expect to make mistakes but hopefully we go out there and put our best foot forward.”

Wallabies winger Rob Horne said on Monday it was in fact the Kiwis who would be under pressure in the Bledisloe opener.

Folau agreed to a certain extent, saying such little expectation heaped on Australia would benefit them.

“We’re probably the underdog so there’s no pressure at all from our end,” Folau said. “Even as players you don’t think about how long it’s been so we will just go out there and try and execute the job and do what we can.

“I don’t think anyone’s really given us a chance but that’s alright with us, it’s something we can’t control as a team.

“It hurts a lot. It gives us a bit more motivation to want to go out there and give everything that we have not only for the team but for the rest of the country.

“It [being underdogs] works for some guys and others it doesn’t really bother them so everyone has a different preparation or the way they look at the game. For most guys it could work in their favour.”

Even though coach Michael Cheika has indicated he would prefer to keep the 27-year-old at fullback, Folau insists he still does not know whether he will line up at No.15 or at outside-centre – the position Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson put him in for the latter part of the Super Rugby season.

Nonetheless, Folau says he will be comfortable no matter what number is on his back.

“I don’t really mind, having that time at 13 with the Tahs really made me a bit more comfortable, so wherever ‘Cheik’ goes in terms of positioning, I’m more than comfortable to fill in either spot,” Folau said. “If it is fullback then I’m happy to be playing there. It’s obviously a position that I’m very familiar with and I’ll go out there and give it my all for the team and that’s what it’s all about for me.”

One of the most pertinent questions in Australian rugby has been how to get Folau as much ball as possible, hence the calls for him to slip into the midfield from fullback, where he has played the bulk of his career.

Despite the whitewash at the hands of England this year, Folau said he was pleased with his own individual performance in the June series.

“I was quite happy across the board with my involvement but you’re always wanting to get the ball a lot more than you do,” Folau said. “I was quite happy with how things went during that England series but you can always think you can get a lot better.”

For Folau and most of the current batch of players, defeat in last year’s World Cup final ranks right up there in terms of the toughest days of their career.

It was even more irritating for Folau who was operating nowhere near his best due to an ankle injury, however he says there will be no added motivation as a result of the 34-17 defeat at Twickenham.

“I was a little bit frustrated because of injury during that World Cup … I haven’t thought about it too much to be honest,” Folau said. “It’s been an enjoyable year for myself and I look forward to the weekend. It’s very exciting.”

The Wallabies name their team to face the All Blacks on Thursday.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.