euters – It was a pipedream when they were Sydney housemates, but now Wallabies superstar Israel Folau is relishing the possibility of going head to head with fellow former NRL star Ben Te’o.
Te’o’s call-up for England and Folau’s successful transition from fullback to the centres in 2016 has raised the tantalising prospect of the pair duelling in next month’s bumper three-Test series.
Te’o has excelled at outside centre since leaving Australia and rugby league in 2014 for Irish province Leinster, who Wallabies coach Michael Cheika coached to their maiden European Cup triumph in 2009.
“I spoke to him a fair bit before he went over – he went to my club in Ireland, Leinster – so they’ve been very pleased with him over there,” Cheika said in the Australian Rugby Union podcast.
“It’s been a very quiet transition, not a lot of noise, so it’s probably given him a chance to get really instilled into the art of playing at 13, which is where he’s been playing.
“You know you’re going to get a tough, hard defender there and from what I’ve watched he’s made the transition really, really well.”
So well that Folau is preparing to mark up on his good friend following Eddie Jones’ leap of faith in the former South Sydney premiership winner.
“He’s certainly a great player and we’re probably joking about it now but it’s something that maybe potentially could happen,” said the NSW Waratahs star.
“It makes things a little more interesting, but certainly not in a negative way.
“I’m so pumped for him to see him in the squad and he definitely deserves it with the switch over, he’s done so much in the last couple of years so good on him.
“I’m actually quite happy for him. I texted him last night. We actually used to live together a couple of years ago.”
Te’o’s smooth transition is in marked contrast to that of his former Rabbitohs teammate Sam Burgess, the last rugby league convert to grace the England squad who has since returned to the NRL.