Deans defends Cheika's decision
Michael Cheika was backed-up by Wallibies coach Robbie Deans over his decision to start Israel Folau at fullback against the Reds last Saturday.
Michael Cheika was backed-up by Wallibies coach Robbie Deans over his decision to start code-convert Israel Folau at fullback against the Reds last Saturday.
While Folau's debut in Super Rugby exposed deficiencies in his game, Deans believes that given time on the field he will make a full conversion to rugby union.
That time will be to Deans's benefit but he would only select Folau for the Wallabies if he believes he has developed his game to a sufficient standard.
Until then, the risk factor with the more game time Folau is given is the Waratahs' to handle.
But Deans supported Cheika when asked if he had made the right call by starting Folau in last Saturday's loss to the Reds at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.
"Absolutely. You consider everything as a coach. And it's easy to sit from a distance. It's easy from the grandstand," the Wallabies coach told the Sydney Morning Herald on Monday at the launch of the 100 Day Countdown to the British and Irish Lions tour.
"He would have based his decision on a lot of background of what he had witnessed on the training field, what he had seen on pre-season fixture," Deans explained.
After a high-profile conversion from rugby league to AFL and then to union one could understand that his debut was going to be under the spotlight and that is not going to relent until he justifies his selection through his performances.
"It was a baptism of fire. It was always going to be. But he is a class footballer," Deans said.
"He will be back, don't worry about that.
"We anticipated he would come under a fair amount of scrutiny and [the Reds] would want to put him under as much pressure as possible. Clearly, he is a bloke who can make things happen. The Reds didn't want to be on the wrong end of that," the Wallabies coach added.
Where Folau plays in the Waratahs' first home game against the Rebels at the Allianz Stadium on Friday night remains to be seen, but Cheika has pledged to "invest" in him.
"He is a huge talent. He can play fullback. He can play wing. He can play 13," Deans said.
The interesting thing will be whether Folau can string together a number of good performances to catch the eye of the national coach with just over three months until the Lions make the trip down south.
As Deans mentions, Folau is a versitle rugby player and ths could play into his hands as he could provide cover in a number of backline positions
Although Folou did seem to be slightly out of his depth against the Reds there were glimpses of what he could do and believe that he will be looking to impress in front of his home crowd against the Rebels this weekend.
The pressure could rise on Cheika if Folau produces another below-par performance against the Rebels on Friday with the likes of Ben Volavola, Drew Mitchell and Adam Ashley-Cooper all capable of shifting into the fullback position.