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Waratahs have high hopes for Folau

6 December 2012 04:28

The man who helped Sonny Bill Williams become a hit in rugby union believes Israel Folau has the potential to revolutionise the game next season.

New Waratahs assistant coach Daryl Gibson worked with Williams at the Crusaders last year and played a key role in his stunning rise to becoming a World Cup winner with the All Blacks.

And after watching code-hopper Folau complete his first training session with the Waratahs on Thursday, Gibson has no doubt the 23-year-old can make a similar impact in his new sport.

The former All Black centre can see a lot of similarities between the two league converts and is confident Folau will be a raging success once he learns the 'subtleties' of the game.

"Sonny brought to union some skills he got from league that has changed our game," Gibson told reporters on Thursday.

"Israel in particular with his aerial ability could potentially be a game changer in union.

"It's not a skill that we are particularly adept at. He spent three years catching and kicking and it would be foolish not to utilise that type of skill in our team.

"They are both superb athletes and one thing with Sonny was he was a very good professional, particularly about learning the game.

"That's Israel's biggest challenge but if he puts the work in he'll have no problems."

Asked how much of an asset Folau's incredible vertical leap could be for the Waratahs, Gibson said: "One thing we haven't seen in union quite a lot is the ability to catch the ball above your head.

"It's a skill (Folau's) obviously going to bring to our game and it's an exciting skill for the Waratahs to have in our team.

"We can potentially score tries in a different way.

"What it will change is a team's ability to defend us. If the back fields opened up and they are worried about his aerial game it opens up opportunities elsewhere."

Folau completed his first session with his new team-mates on Thursday morning, getting through a series of sprints, some ball work and defensive drills in a tough 90-minute workout.

Waratahs coach Michael Chieka was impressed with how quickly Folau settled in to his new sport but said he won't include the former Broncos and Storm flyer in contact sessions until he has a better understanding of the ruck.

After two seasons playing AFL with the GWS Giants, Folau will also have to bulk up his upper body over the next couple of months to be ready for the rigours of Super Rugby.

"There's no exact science to this," Chieka said.

"You've got to go with a gut feel and more importantly you've got to go with how the players feeling good.

"For players who are well-tuned like Israel it can be a kilo or two here or there. We'll just balance it and get it right.

"He will be doing a lot more running without the ball (than in rugby league, covering the back three and positional movement off the ball.

"That will be something that his recent (AFL) experience will give him an edge."

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