ROBBIE Deans has ratcheted up the hard-sell on Israel Folau to re-sign with Australian rugby by predicting he could become “an absolute legend” in the code.
Folau is currently weighing up his future, and amid strong speculation the triple-code convert is committed to returning to the NRL at the Bulldogs next season, Deans slathered the praise on thick for the NSW fullback.
“Israel does some things that no-one else can do. How many games has he had now? Ten or so? It’s remarkable what he can do in his tenth game of rugby. Whatever happens, let’s hope he sticks around because he’d be an absolute legend if he does,” Deans said. “If he was to stay in the game, he would be huge, no doubt. He already is.”
Folau has played 13 games – including trials – and has impressed enough to be heavily in contention for a Wallabies spot against the British and Irish Lions.
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Lions coach Warren Gatland said on Tuesday night he expected Folau to be picked, based on both talent and the political motivations of the ARU.
“We’re expecting to see him. From a political and a commercial point of view he’s a player Australia want to encourage to stay in the game and not go back to league,” Gatland said.
Deans’ effusive praise came just a day after it was announced he’d have total control of the Wallabies program under an ARU re-structure; including a big role in player contracting.
“I am hoping he is enjoying the point of difference union offers him,” Deans said. “It’s his first experience in Africa, and having the opportunity to see the world while he does what he enjoys, hopefully he’ll cherish and seek more of.”
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PETER Betham is the only change in the Waratahs starting side to take on the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth on Sunday morning. He replaces Tom Kingston.