A month out from kick-off and code-hopping superstar Israel Folau is already ranking the Rugby World Cup as the highlight of his unparalleled football career.
In rugby league, Folau won an NRL grand final, was Queensland’s man of the match in a State of Origin series decider and became the youngest Kangaroo when he made his 2007 Test debut at just 18.
After two seasons with Greater Western Sydney in the AFL, Folau joined the NSW Waratahs to become the first – and only – player in history to make it in three Australian professional football codes.
But the 26-year-old says not even a Super Rugby crown or Bledisloe Cup triumph over the All Blacks can match the thrill of featuring in a Rugby World Cup.
“This is definitely the pinnacle for sure,” Folau said on the eve of the Wallabies’ World Cup squad announcement in Sydney.
“Now that it’s getting closer, I’ve realised how big the event is for sure.
“Not that I’m feeling any pressure or anything, but you want to try and make the most of it.
“It comes around every four years and some guys don’t even get the chance to play in a World Cup, so I’m just pretty grateful for the position I’m in.”
Folau admits he’s entering uncharted territory but knows the seven-week rugby festival will prove a special experience.
“There’s been a lot of chat obviously over the last few months leading up to this time and it’ll be my first time experiencing a Rugby World Cup,” he said.
“Speaking to players who have been there before, they say it’s the best time of their rugby careers.
“We get a lot of past players coming in and out of camp and they talk about the time when they won in `99 and it’s always a special moment.
“And if you bond, you find you make special friendships.”
Folau revealed master motivator coach Michael Cheika already has the Wallabies visualising holding the Webb Ellis Cup aloft at Wallabies training camps.
“It’s been spoken about,” he said.
“For me, growing up as a young kid, my dream was obviously a bit different to most of the other guys and I’m just trying to enjoy the ride as much as I can.
“I don’t know what to expect when I get over there, but I know I’m just going to give 100 per cent.
“For sure we’ve been working hard and, despite the result last weekend (in the Bledisloe Cup decider), we still have that belief in the group to be able to go over there and really do well.”