Brumbies coach says sudden elevation of convert sends the wrong message.
World Cup-winning coach Jake White said Friday that selecting former rugby league international Israel Folau to play against the British and Irish Lions would cheapen the Wallabies jersey.
The former Springboks coach and now Brumbies mentor said that while Folau was a talented player he must commit long-term to Australian rugby before being chosen for the Wallabies.
Folau, 24, has made a big impression in just nine Super Rugby games for the NSW Waratahs this season since switching codes for a second time after two seasons in Australian Rules with Greater Western Sydney.
“The concern is if you’ve only played 10 games and become a Wallaby, for me it’s a bit of an indictment on the jumper,” White said.
“I understand he’s a great catch and they want to try and attract him marketing-wise to keep him in rugby football.”
White said the Australian Rugby Union did the same with previous rugby league converts Mat Rogers, Wendell Sailor and Lote Tuqiri because of the intense competition between the rival rugby codes in Australia.
“But he’s got to want to play for the Wallabies and be a part of the Wallabies for many, many years if you want to give him a Wallaby jumper,” White said.
“I don’t think it would be fair after 10 or 12 games if he ends up playing for Australia.”
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has not guaranteed Folau selection in his final 31-man squad for the June-July Lions series, but said this week that he could become “an absolute legend of the game” if he remained in rugby beyond this year when his ARU contract expires.
“But in terms of whether he’ll be with us (for the Lions Tests), we’ll make those decisions in time,” Deans said on Wednesday.
“Israel does some things that no one else can do. It’s remarkable what he can do for a bloke who’s playing his 10th game of rugby.”
Reports have linked Folau with a return to the National Rugby League next year at the Canterbury Bulldogs.
The Wallabies play three Tests against the Lions from June 22 to July 6.