He might have lost his attacking mojo but Wallabies star Israel Folau is more motivated than ever to get back to his best, according to assistant coach Stephen Larkham.
Arguably the world’s best fullback and Australia’s most scintillating player when on song, Folau has scored just three tries over the last two international seasons – compared with 17 across his first two years as a Test player.
The 27-year-old said two weeks ago he was struggling to reach his full potential and in the thick one of the most challenging periods of his rugby career as the team seeks to up his involvement and impact in matches.
Larkham said he cannot fault Folau for his contributions at training and around the camp.
“He’s been more motivated than ever to get out there and play well,” Larkham said.
“The ball’s not necessarily going to him in the right spaces at the right times but he’s very enthusiastic about improving and adding to this team and we certainly have seen that at training over the last month.
“He’s accelerating through gaps, his communication has certainly gone to a new level now.
“We went through a pretty tough stretch with the games we lost, but there’s a lot of motivation in the group at the moment to become better and I don’t think anyone’s driving that more than Izzy at the moment.
“Our challenge as coaches is to make sure that we get him opportunities in a bit of space.”
Folau will get another chance to fire in Saturday’s Rugby Championship clash against South Africa at Loftus Versfeld (1.05am Sunday AEST).
He’ll also work with a new winger for the first time, with Fijian-born pace merchant Sefa Naivalu set to make his Test debut off the bench.
“I think a few people have been waiting to see Sefa at this level for a while,” Larkham said.
“He’s been exceptional at Super Rugby level, particularly when he gets his hands on the ball.
“If you have a look at about every involvement he’s had in Super Rugby where he’s had his hands on the ball he’s making some sort of a line break.
“That’s the biggest factor he’s going to bring to this team – the excitement when he comes off the bench and gets his hands on the ball.”