Israel Folau can still take the Rugby World Cup by storm despite a relatively quiet pool stage, Wallabies attack coach Stephen Larkham believes.
The shining star in Australia’s backline, Folau went into the tournament keen to stamp his mark on the sport’s grandest stage.
However the fullback struggled to make the impact he’s capable of in the pool games as he went tryless through wins over Fiji, England and Wales.
Uncharacteristically, he also struggled badly under the high ball last weekend against Wales.
Three times, he failed badly to secure bombs in the first half as opposition five-eighth Dan Biggar sent the ball up his way, leading to suspicions he might have been concerned for the ankle he rolled in the previous clash with England.
Larkham’s goal, as it has been since the start of the tournament, is making sure Folau is able to inject himself into the attack throughout games.
“He’s a guy who really relishes getting the ball in hand and we didn’t get a lot of ball in hand (against Wales),” Larkham said.
“There were less phases in attack in that game than in all of our previous six or seven games that we’ve played this year.”
Despite his struggles, Folau still recorded match-highs in metres gained (65), line breaks (two) and tackle breaks (five).
Even when below his best, Folau’s extraordinary talents allow him to impact the game – giving Larkham confidence the World Cup is about to see something special from him.
“(It was) one of those games that didn’t present any opportunities for him and obviously (he was) carrying a bit of an injury going into the game, but pulled up really well.
“We’re not overreacting with any of that sort of stuff,” he said of Folau being kept quieter than normal.
“We know he’s a quality player and that he’ll get more opportunities this weekend to get his hands on the ball which will therefore create more opportunity for him to do some amazing stuff.
“He probably had four touches during the game and still managed line breaks out of all of those.
“He had hardly any touches, but he’s got an ability to open the game up.”