Planet Rugby

Folau faces challenge - Cheika

16th January 2014 07:16

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Breakthrough: Israel Folau

Waratahs boss Michael Cheika says game-breaking rookie Israel Folau still has much to learn after a stellar debut season in union.

Folau, who is a former rugby league international as well as AFL superstar, marked a spectacular opening year in the 15-man code by becoming one of world rugby's biggest players.

The full-back, who played his first five Tests on the wing, burst onto the international scene with the Wallabies against the British and Irish Lions back in June, scoring two fine tries on his first appearance.

And Folau has since gone on to develop in the green and gold number 15 jersey into one of the sport's greatest attacking threats.

His form saw him equal Lote Tuqiri's Australian record of 10 tries in a calendar year during 2013, and won the new boy a host of awards, including Super Rugby Rookie of the Year.

"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 the Sports Fan website.

"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 start 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."

Former Leinster boss Cheika refused to rule out utilising Folau at outside centre, with clamour for Australian rugby's latest darling to start in midfield growing.

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

"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."

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