Attacking winger set to be used more in attack against New Zealand.
The Wallabies plan to get more of the ball to their strike weapon Israel Folau in a bid to defeat the All Blacks in this weekend’s Bledisloe Cup Test, skipper James Horwill claimed.
In Australia’s first game under new coach Ewen McKenzie in Sydney on Saturday, Horwill said it was imperative that dual international winger Folau got more involved after his impressive displays in the recent series against the British and Irish Lions.
McKenzie gets his chance after replacing Robbie Deans, who won only three of his 18 Tests against New Zealand and whose reign ended after the Lions hammered the Wallabies 41-16 last month to take the three-match series.
He is promising a fresh coaching approach and has opted for uncapped Matt Toomua as his playmaker instead of Quade Cooper, with whom he formed a close coach-player relationship during his four years at the Queensland Reds.
“Never make assumptions,” McKenzie said.
“When I was coaching Quade at the Reds I only had Quade at the Reds. None of this says Quade has done anything wrong. Quade is going quite well. In the end we drilled down to what we actually need and we favoured Matt over Quade.
“As we developed how we wanted to play, it became more and more obvious it was going to be a better way to start the game,” he added.
If Toomua can spark the Wallabies’ backline in what is also the Rugby Championship opener then the plan is for Folau to get more of the action and put the All Blacks’ defence under pressure.
Folau was devastating at times on the wing against the Lions, most notably in his sensational two-try Test debut in Brisbane, but the Wallabies admit they underutilised him in that series defeat.
“He’s a guy you want to get the ball because he makes things happen,” Horwill said. “He’s got free rein to make sure he gets the ball as much as he wants.
“He understands that and he’s a guy who makes defences worry.”
Team vice-captain and scrum-half Will Genia said that along with fullback Jesse Mogg and James O’Connor, now on the wing after playing at fly-half against the Lions, the back three was one of Australia’s greatest strengths.
“I think James’ best position is definitely wing,” Genia said. “There’s definitely less pressure in that you don’t have to worry about controlling and organising a team.
“It gives him a license to roam the field and slip in at first receiver and get a few touches there.
“But he’s just got a great running game and obviously everybody has seen what Izzy can do.”
Genia said Mogg was ‘incredibly quick’ and he will add to the Wallabies’ counter-attacking capability.
“We didn’t get to see much of his ability to run the ball and attack and to just see him in training he’s incredibly quick,” he said.
“He’s got great pace and he just adds a different dimension to our attack, especially with a left boot as well.
“So if we can create space and momentum those guys can definitely find space and plenty of opportunities for the team.”
World Cup champions New Zealand are defending the Bledisloe Cup they have held since 2003, and the Rugby Championship they won last year.