Folau faces second year syndrome

Thu, 16 Jan 2014 16:42
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Waratahs coach Michael Cheika warns Israel Folau faces a challenging second year in Rugby Union despite his dream debut season last year.

Waratahs coach Michael Cheika warns Israel Folau faces a challenging second year in Rugby Union despite his dream debut season last year.

Folau exploded onto the scene after making the switch from Rugby League last year, being named the Australian Super Rugby Rookie of the Year and equalling Lote Tuqiri's Australian record of 10 Test tries in a calendar year.

In the process, Folau developed a better understanding of the finer details of the game but Cheika feels he will have to make another step up this season with the opposition now aware of the damage the 24-year-old can do.

"I think there will be a big challenge for him this year, just adjusting from having such a massive season, a small break, backing up again,” Cheika told AAP.

"That's a first for him, so we're mindful in the way that we are preparing him this season, both for mental freshness and also physical.

"But his enthusiasm is ridiculous. He wanted to come back early and stat training and I had to tell him not to come.

"I think just based on that alone, and his quality, the formula is looking good going forward."

Cheika isn’t ruling out moving Folau into the midfield in the forthcoming warm-up games but doesn’t want to make unnecessary changes.

"At this stage he's travelling so well at 15, we're not going to play around too much," said Cheika.

Folau will face stiff competition for the fullback berth in the form of Kurtley Beale, who’s back in Sydney after a failed stint at the Melbourne Rebels.

Asked who he favoured at this stage, the Waratahs coach quipped, "seven and a half each, that will make 15," adding, "I'll just see how it pans out. I don't have to worry about selecting the first competition game team until late in February."

Cheika said he’s pleased to have welcomed back all his Wallabies in good health but said Springbok loose forward Jacques Potgieter is yet to join the squad from Japan.

"He keeps texting me every week, he wants to know how it’s going," Cheika said.

"He's very eager to get here. I think he's only got one match left in Japan and then he'll be here, so I'm not worried about that."  

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