Israel Folau has been backed to overcome his high ball yips and propel Australia into a World Cup final by back-three partner Drew Mitchell.
The high ball, and mid-field bombs in general, have been used as a vital attacking weapon by all teams at this World Cup – making the job of Folau all the more important on Sunday (Monday 0300 AEDT) when Australia take on Argentina in the second semi-final.
Wallabies attack coach Stephen Larkham noted the box kick, often unappreciated by Australian fans, had produced results when utilised in the right manner.
“It’s an effective tactic provided you use it the right way,” Larkham said.
“(You put) one bloke who can’t catch a ball under immense pressure.
“It’s part of our game but we don’t do it every week and we don’t do it every single lineout.”
Folau is certainly not a “bloke who can’t catch a ball”, and is unlikely to be targeted in that sense by Argentina, but he was uncharacteristically poor in the air in his most recent match – Australia’s gutsy pool victory over Wales.
The former NRL star had taken an injury into that clash, having rolled his ankle against England the previous week, though the Wallabies argued this wasn’t the reason for his drops.
But with the dual international seemingly back at full fitness, having trained with the team on Friday before being named at fullback, Mitchell said he had confidence in seeing Folau at his best this weekend.
“Izzy is world class in that area,” Mitchell said.
“He’s proved that right throughout his career that it’s one of the real strengths in his game.
“When he’s back there more often than not you can rely on him getting up there above everyone and securing that ball.”
Mitchell, who as Australia’s left winger is often called on to defuse mid-field bombs, said it had been used as a tactic by teams throughout the World Cup as a way of gaining ground while providing a contest for possession.
“It’s been shown not only in our game, but a lot of games in the World Cup, that it is a genuine attacking tool now,” he said.
“It’s not just something to try to transfer pressure, it is a real tool to go out there and really try to contest, regain the ball and go again at a broken defensive line.”