Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Tomane backing Folau to be ready to carry weight of expectation

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 22: Israel Folau of the Wallabies scores a try during the First Test match between the Australian Wallabies and the British & Irish Lions at Suncorp Stadium on June 22, 2013 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

When your team-mates describe you as "a freak" it's easy to surmise you're a pretty special talent.

No-one who watched Saturday's opening Test match between Australia and the Lions is in doubt about Israel Folau's talent.

He is, to quote his Wallaby team-mate Joe Tomane, "a freak". Tomane is a likely replacement for Digby Ioane on the wing this Saturday.

"Man, he is pretty special. He's pretty much perfect in everything he does," said Tomane.

"He's won Origin (Rugby League), has played in Grand Finals and has played in the AFL, which isn't easy. And now he's taking Union by storm.

"He's just a freak ... a great player."

Tomane is, like Folau, a rugby league convert and if selected for Saturday will be making just his second ever start for Australia after a year of ill-fortune.

His debut was in the 9-6 loss to Scotland in Newcastle 12 months ago. He injured his ankle in training just a couple of days later and missed the rest of the 2012 season.

He made a successful comeback to Super 15 rugby with the Brumbies this season and had been expected to start last weekend's Test but broke a toe in training.

"It will feel like my debut all over again in I get to play on Saturday," he said.

"I'm good to go now. It was disappointing to suffer another injury in training but I've done my rehab and I'm ready."

Last Saturday was very much the "Israel Folau Show" for the Wallabies with the former League star scoring a brace of tries on his debut.

It has been suggested Folau will be moved to full-back, where he plays all his rugby for the Waratahs, for Saturday's second Test.

"He'll pretty much play like that wherever he plays. He's an outstanding footballer," he added.

Tomane and Folau went to the same Marsden High School in Brisbane – Folau was a year ahead – and Tomane remembers him being a prodigious talent back then.

"I kinda knew it was going to happen watching him play from a young age. I remember thinking this guy is going to be massive when he finishes high school," he said.

Folau actually sparked a three-way bidding war last year when clubs from rugby league, union and the AFL all competed for his signature. He opted for the Waratahs and Union but he is thought to be mulling over a number of offers from league at present.

He described Saturday's experience as the best of his career so far –"that maybe topped Origin," he said – and the ARU are believed to be determined to hold onto him.

Meanwhile Pat McCabe, who replaced the luckless Christian Leali'ifano on Saturday, has been ruled out of rugby for the rest of the year after consulting specialists in Sydney yesterday. The 25-year-old centre re-injured his neck after replacing Leali'ifano in the first minute of Saturday's game and had to be stretchered off the field himself in the second half.

"The fracture that has partially opened up is expected to repair itself and strengthen," said Wallaby team-doctor Warren McDonald.

"This does not mean that Pat will not be able to return to the rugby field and be able to feel comfortable taking contact.

"But there is certainly no way that Pat will be returning to the game without a thorough assessment process to ensure he can have full confidence in the bone that has fractured."

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