Inspired by Lomu, Folau wants to play All Blacks
SYDNEY (AP) — Israel Folau is still in new Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie’s plans to face New Zealand in the Rugby Championship opener after being retained in a 30-man squad announced Friday.
If he makes the cut again, this time in the 22 for the Aug. 17 Bledisloe Cup match, the code-hopping Folau will achieve a career-long wish to play against the All Blacks, a desire spawned by meeting with Jonah Lomu.
“Jonah was one of my heroes growing up and I know him personally as well so I talk to him every now and then,” Folau told Australian Associated Press. “He’s a good man and gives you a bit of tips on the side and is always very supportive.”
And what’s the advice from the great All Blacks winger?
“Just go out there and back yourself and play to your instincts,” Folau said. “He’s pretty much the same and the way he played his rugby as well was exceptional.”
Both have Tongan heritage, and both renowned for being big, powerful runners who can trample over or run around defenders.
Lomu made his international debut in 1994 and by the time he steamrolled the England backs to score four tries in the 1995 World Cup semifinal, he was already a global star. Folau is only just finding his feet in rugby union after one season with the New South Wales Waratans and making his international debut for Australia in the 2-1 series defeat to the British and Irish Lions last month.
He was named rookie of the year in the Australian Super Rugby conference this week. He spent the previous two years in the Australian rules AFL competition, after making his name in a successful rugby league career when he played for Australia and the Queensland State-of-Origin team as a teenager.
Folau ranks facing the All Blacks as the ultimate challenge.
“They’re the top team in the world and so you want to challenge yourself against the best players and see how you go,” said Folau, who scored two tries in his test debut against the Lions.
Folau, who is widely tipped to sign a new contract with the New South Wales Waratahs, said he’d never been to a Bledisloe Cup match.
“But I’ve always watched the game on TV since I was young,” he said. “So if you get the chance to face them, it’s something I’ll always remember as a player.”