Folau handed Wallabies chance
Australia are ready to unleash Israel Folau on the British and Irish Lions after the explosive wing completed the latest achievement of his remarkable sporting career.
Just 12 months ago Folau was playing Australian rules football, but only after ending a spell in rugby league that saw him win seven caps for the Kangaroos and make five appearances for Queensland in the State of Origin.
Now the elusive 24-year-old NSW Waratah will make his debut for the Wallabies at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday and said: "Being chosen by Australia is certainly up there with what I've achieved in the past with rugby and AFL."
He added: "This is a very exciting time for me and is a great achievement. This time last year I was playing in AFL so it's funny how things change a lot in a short time.
"I haven't regretted anything and it's been a great journey so far."
Australia coach Robbie Deans believes Folau is ready to make his debut in one of the biggest matches of the Wallabies' recent history and suspects the Lions may even be caught unaware by a player they will have seen only a handful of times.
"One of the advantages Israel has is that the Lions will never have faced him previously," Deans said. "They'll have witnessed what he's capable of and they'll be wanting to limit that because he's a bloke who makes things happen when he gets his hands on the ball. And it's fully our intent to get his hands on the ball."
However, Lions head coach Warren Gatland has spotted a chink in his armour after questioning how his defence will hold up following his switch from full-back, the position he more regularly plays for the Waratahs, to the wing.
"We know what a quality player Folau is, he's an absolutely outstanding athlete. But probably one of the hardest positions to defend is wing," Gatland said. "There will be no doubt that he will receive some attention defensively to see how strong he is at that.
"Australia in the past have not been afraid to move their players around defensively in different positions, so maybe they'll do that with him and he might run at full-back on a few occasions. He's been very good for the Waratahs at 15. He was a bit lost when he defended on the wing at first, but he's had a bit of time since then."