The NSW Waratahs have defended their decision to hold back Israel Folau from two of their three matches at the Brisbane Global Rugby Tens.
Folau played only in the ‘Tahs’ opening 15-5 defeat by Japan’s Panasonic Wild Knights on day one.
He didn’t feature in their 26-14 loss to the Chiefs later on Saturday or Sunday’s 14-12 win over the Melbourne Rebels, which was not enough to earn them a spot in the quarter-finals.
The Wallabies superstar, who was an official event ambassador, appears set for a more extended role in Thursday’s final pre-season hit-out against the Highlanders at Brookvale Oval.
“Izzy had a run yesterday and had a massive Spring tour,” assistant coach Nathan Grey said.
“Those guys are coming back into training so it’s just smarts from everyone’s perspective, making sure those guys get some quality time in terms of their preparation, so we can build up a lot of the Wallaby guys so they’re right for Super Rugby.”
Folau said he wanted to play more but understood why he wasn’t allowed, particularly in light of the scorching 39 degree heat.
“They’re just looking out for what’s best for me and I guess the mindset is looking ahead to that Super Rugby season which is what is really important to us,” he said.
Grey said there were plenty of positives the Waratahs could take out of the tens despite their early exit.
“We knew this was going to be a really good tournament to showcase some skills, some defence stuff, some breakdown stuff and some lateral passing,” he said.
“It’s a good opportunity for our young guys. Our execution under pressure was probably a little bit disappointing but good to expose those guys to it.”
The Rebels, who also failed to qualify for the knockout portion, enjoyed their first tens experience as well.
“I’m pretty happy, to be honest,” said assistant coach Craig McGrath.
“We had minimal preparation and they’ve just played their hearts out.
“It’s tough conditions and they’ve done themselves proud.”
The Rebels host the Blues in the Super Rugby season opener on February 23, while the Waratahs are at home to the Western Force two days later.