Australian leader looking to get his strike weapon more involved in the action.
Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie said Sunday he would consider switching Israel Folau’s position after the winger was kept quiet in the 47-29 defeat to the All Blacks at the weekend.
Folau, who scored two tries in his Test debut against the British and Irish Lions recently, may be played at fullback in a bid to maximise his match-winning potential and keep Australia’s Bledisloe Cup hopes alive, McKenzie said.
The Wallabies must win Saturday’s second Test in Wellington to avoid losing the trans-Tasman series for an 11th straight year and getting Folau more involved is one of McKenzie’s priorities.
Wallabies great Tim Horan lamented that dual international Folau had “one of the quietest games I’ve ever seen from an Australian winger” in Saturday’s trouncing by the World Cup champions in Sydney.
McKenzie said: “They said they were going to target him. Well, one way of targeting him is to keep him out of the game.
“So it’s up to us to find ways to keep him in the game.”
Folau, who played fullback for the NSW Waratahs in his first Super 15 season since switching from Aussie Rules and rugby league, was crowned Australia’s Super Rugby rookie of the year.
Another Test rookie, Jesse Mogg, had a forgettable starting debut at number 15 on Saturday.
McKenzie must now strike the right balance if he reshuffles his backline for the do-or-die clash in New Zealand, where the Wallabies haven’t won since 2001.
The new coach’s other option is shifting Adam Ashley-Cooper from outside centre to fullback and promoting another Test novice Tevita Kuridrani to the midfield.
McKenzie could also start James O’Connor, twice caught out defensively on the wing in the six-try first-Test drubbing and who also boasts a superior kicking game to Folau, at fullback.
“He’s (Folau) played most of his rugby league career on the wing,” McKenzie said. “The fullback bit has been obviously something the Tahs experimented with.
“We certainly don’t rule out that he can play in that position and within a game he can play in that position,” McKenzie said.
“So we’ll be open-minded about that. He’s a good player and we practised to have him involved in the game. It just didn’t eventuate.”
McKenzie said his focus this week would be on improving the side’s transition defence after the world champions scored three tries from turnovers, along with working on their decision making and ball security.
“They’re things we have to attend to but the good thing is they’re easily fixed,” he said.
Scrum-half Will Genia said the Wallabies could still defy the odds and wrestle back the Bledisloe Cup with successive wins over the All Blacks in New Zealand for the first time in a single season since 1949.
“I don’t feel deflated. Not at all. There’s a lot of confidence in the fact that we scored 29 points,” Genia said.
“We had a heavy emphasis on attack during the week because we wanted to reinvent and refresh a few new things.
“We’ve just got to go away and make sure we work hard because seven days is a long time. I still feel very confident. We’ve lost one game. We’ve got two more to potentially, hopefully get a trophy.”