Wallabies utility back Israel Folau ranks facing the All Blacks as the ultimate challenge and another step up from playing the Lions.
Wallabies utility back Israel Folau ranks facing the All Blacks as the ultimate challenge and another step up from playing the British and Irish Lions.
Folau may only be 24, but he has already had an outstanding and varied football career – the youngest player, at 18, to make his rugby league Test debut for Australia, winning multiple State of Origin series with Queensland, an NRL grand final with Melbourne Storm and two seasons in the Australian Football League (AFL).
He has been a smash hit in his first season in rugby union since switching codes from AFL and scored two great tries in a memorable debut for the Wallabies in the first Test against the Lions.
Now the Waratahs outside back is gearing up for a crack at the world champion All Blacks in the opening international of the Rugby Championship on August 17 in Sydney.
“They're the top team in the world and so you want to challenge yourself against the best players and see how you go,” Folau told AAP.
“For me, that's just the ultimate and why I'm so excited.
“I guess everyone gets excited when you get the chance to play against the All Blacks and it's no different for me.
“Even though I've played rugby league and AFL throughout my sporting career, I've always watched rugby since I was young and that's the ultimate in rugby.
“Hopefully I can find myself in the team and it'd be a massive challenge.”
Folau, who is likely to stay on the right wing under new Wallaby coach Ewen McKenzie, said two Tests in the losing series against the Lions was a great experience.
“I can take a lot out of that,” he said.
“Playing against them was a great experience and I get a lot of confidence out of it.”
Folau revealed he has been in regular contact with All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu and gets advice on making the transition to the 15-a-side game.
“Jonah was one of my heroes growing up and I know him personally as well so I talk to him every now and then,” he added.
“He's a good man and gives you a bit of tips on the side and is always very supportive.
“(He says) to just go out there and back yourself and play to your instincts — he's pretty much the same and the way he played his rugby as well was exceptional.”