England say Folau switch would be brave

England’s Jonathan Joseph says Australia are taking a big risk if they shift Israel Folau to centre for Saturday’s opening Test in Brisbane.

Folau has made the fullback position his own for the Wallabies in the past two years.

But the 27-year-old has made a successful switch to centre for the Waratahs in Super Rugby this year, prompting calls to make the same move for Australia.

Joseph doesn’t believe coach Michael Cheika will switch Folau but if he does it’s a decision he feels could backfire as much as reward the hosts.

“Israel’s a great player, obviously played the majority of his career at fullback but I’ve seen he’s played a lot of 13 this season,” the England No.13 said.

“Personally I think he’ll play fullback but great player, great feet, hard to defend against but also there could be opportunities there as well.

“We sort of have a rough idea of how they’re going to attack us and how they’re going to play. We’re very focused on what we’re about and what we can impose on them.”

The tourists’ own centre pairing is up for grabs, with another former NRL player in Ben Te’o believed to be a good chance to debut for England at inside centre.

“His off-loading game’s very good and defensively very tough,” Joseph said.

“He’s a great player. Great to have in the squad and love to see what he can offer on the international stage.”

While Te’o selection is very much up in the air, the more likely selection surprise from the English is moving impressive youngster Maro Itoje from lock to blindside flanker.

Itoje’s height and athleticism is seen as a way for England to counter Australian pairing Michael Hooper and David Pocock.

The 21-year-old claimed a domestic club double in England with Saracens as well as several individual honours and club teammate Mako Vunipola believes Itoje would be a hit at No.6.

“He’s shown what he can do as a player for Sarries and for England,” Vunipola said.

“He gives you that extra lineout option. He’s very good at the breakdown anyway for a second-rower and he’s a big lad … carries hard and tackles hard.

“He’s a good player and he’s good enough to play six.”

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