Quade Cooper tips Folau will test Lions
February 20, 2013
Israel Folau has shown solid form in trials for the Waratahs, particuarly around kick returns. © Getty Images
Quade Cooper believes Israel Folau's midas touch on a rectangular field will carry him all the way into the Wallabies backline against the British and Irish Lions.
While Folau's NSW team-mate Lachie Turner voiced the opinion of many rugby aficionados, that Folau will need plenty of time to adapt to the 15-man code, Cooper thinks the code-hopper can transform himself from novice to Test star in three months of Super Rugby.
The former Queensland and Kangaroos winger and AFL flop is set to make his top-flight rugby debut at fullback against Cooper's Queensland Reds on Saturday night.
Folau has already said he'd love to become a dual international and represent the Wallabies in the blockbuster three-Test series against the Lions, starting in June. That leaves the 23-year-old just 14 Super games to convince Test coach Robbie Deans he is fully equipped - both with skills and rugby nous - to handle one of the biggest assignments in the game.
Lote Tuqiri, the most successful former league recruit in Australian rugby's modern era, did manage to start a World Cup final in the same year he debuted in rugby, in 2003, but that was after a nine-month apprenticeship. Folau has been an instant hit in just three trial matches for the Waratahs and Cooper expects "the class act" to continue shining in spite of rivals attempting to expose his inexperience in the code.
The 38-Test Wallabies fly-half felt Folau should definitely be regarded as a starting contender for the Lions tour.
"A player of his calibre you only need a few games to show what you're made of," Cooper told AAP. "I know Issy as a sportsman and as a person, and he's always excelled and I'm sure it's going to be no different in rugby. He's some done some great things in trials and he's only going to get better and better over time."
"Issy has a great background in professional sport. He's showed he could make it to the top in rugby league," Cooper added. "When push comes to shove, some players have it and some players don't but he's obviously one player that has it."
Folau certainly had it in league; winning an NRL premiership with Melbourne Storm at 18 and also averaging close to a try a game in State of Origin successes with Queensland and Test victories for the Kangaroos. While he couldn't repeat his golden touch in the AFL, his athletic brilliance has been a winner for the Waratahs - most dangerously carving up defences from kick returns.
Cooper's kicking game will be a key plank in the Reds' quest to expose the 195cm fullback at Suncorp Stadium but the fly-half says the best they can do is deny him time and space with the ball. "It's the old line: it's not about shutting down one player, it's about limiting his options," Cooper said.
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