Folau pledges allegiance to Super Rugby with Warathas deal

Israel Folau speaks to the media during a Waratahs Super Rugby press conference to announce his signing at Allianz Stadium on December 4, 2012.
Israel Folau speaks to the media during a Waratahs Super Rugby press conference to announce his signing at Allianz Stadium on December 4, 2012. Mark Kolbe / Getty Images

FORMER dual international Wendell Sailor has backed Israel Folau to make a successful transition to rugby after a failed attempt to switch to the AFL.

After initially expressing his desire to return to the NRL with Parramatta, Folau was unveiled today as the final player on the Waratahs list for its 2013 Super Rugby campaign.

The 23-year-old has been labelled a mercenary for chasing the biggest deal he can get, Parramatta officials saying they would never again entertain signing the former Storm and Broncos star.

Stung by the crictism, Folau tweeted: "Everyone is entitled to their opinions! But I'll speak the truth when it's my time."

Sailor, who spent nine season with the Broncos before switching to the 15-man game, said Folau had the pysical skills required, but would need the right mental approach.

"There's no doubt he can make the transition if he puts his mind to it, and the Waratahs need a big name," Sailor said.

"I switched because I wanted to play rugby union. The Broncos offered me a two year deal with a two year option, but I spoke to Wayne (Bennett) and I'd been there for nine years.

"Israel has got so many options ... he needs to be in a good head space."

Sailor said he found it tougher to switch to union than fellow league stars Lote Tuquri and Matt Rogers.

"It took me a good 12-18 months to get up to speed. You just don't get the ball ... you've got to be patient, it's more like a game of chess than league," Sailor said.

"Lote and Matt were natural athletes and made the swap quicker than I did. I think Izzy is a natural footballer, plus he'll have people like Drew Mitchell and Adam Ashley-Cooper to help his transition."

Reports yesterday suggested Folau would sign with the Waratahs for just one season, which begs the question, is it effectively a trial or does he still hope to return to the NRL once the salary cap is increased for the 2014 season?

The Waratahs will be keen to get some value for their investment, but just where he plays will be the big question.

Sailor suggested with the kicking skills he had gained from his time with the GWS Giants, Folau would make a great fist of playing at fullback or on the wing.

But with new coach Michael Cheika having the likes of Mitchell, Ashley-Cooper, Lachie Turner, Berrick Barnes, not to mention emerging prospects Bernard Foley and Tom Kingston to choose from, Folau will need to show he can make his latest transition in double quick time to justify selection.

Topics:  afl israel folau nrl nsw waratahs wendell sailor

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