NSW Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson is considering shifting Wallabies fullback Israel Folau to outside centre for the 2016 Super Rugby season.
Folau has made his name at fullback since joining the 15-man code in 2013, however Gibson is confident the 26-year-old could take the No.13 jersey vacated by Adam Ashley-Cooper’s move to French rugby if required.
“After three years and with the experience he has gained in our sport he is feeling very comfortable in terms of positioning with what he was in league,” Gibson told Sky Sports Radio on Thursday.
“That shift would be something good around the enthusiasm of a new position. It’s certainly something that we’ve considered.”
Such a move was first mooted last season and Gibson, a former All Blacks centre, says he is keen to get Folau on the ball more.
Michael Cheika’s replacement at the Waratahs also said he believed the ankle injury Folau suffered in Australia’s World Cup campaign, which ultimately saw him requiring surgery, could be a positive for the former NRL star’s career.
“Sometimes injury can be a good thing. It meant that Israel got that break that he desperately needed. He’s had three years of solid playing, he’s probably been one of Australia’s best,” Gibson said.
“The fact he can’t play on with that injury is probably a good thing for him for the next three years.”
If Folau is to shift to outside centre, fellow rugby league convert Reece Robinson would be most likely to take his spot at the back.
“Reece Robinson has been fantastic,” he said.
“We always knew Reece had a wonderful pedigree as a rugby league player, but he’s certainly shown he is going to be an asset this year.”
Gibson’s suggestions come a day after Wallabies defensive coach and Waratahs assistant Nathan Grey backed the move to switch Folau.
“Without a doubt, he’s comfortable in that front line,” Grey told AAP.
“There’s some nuances you’ve definitely got to pick up and he’s been working with Adam and with other excellent defenders for a number of years.
“So it’s just a matter of making that decision and upskilling from there.”