Record-breaker Israel Folau is determined to make his centre switch successful and he’ll get every chance, says NSW Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson.
World Cup fullback Folau looks increasingly likely to feature in the Wallabies midfield this season after looking comfortable in the new role for a second straight week.
Starting just his second game in the No.13 jersey, Folau’s efforts again included a try – his franchise-record 30th – as the Waratahs crushed the Western Force 49-13 in Perth to stay in the hunt for Super Rugby’s Australian conference title.
After weeks of tinkering, Gibson believes he now has the right backline combination with Folau at 13, outside fellow Wallabies Nick Phipps, Bernard Foley and Kurtley Beale, with former centre Rob Horne and former NRL star Reece Robinson on the wings and youngster Andrew Kellaway at fullback.
“At the moment I’m keen to run this combination out, give it some time,” Gibson said on Sunday.
“I certainly think with Folau given more time at 13, he’ll grow into that position and he’s very determined to make sure that he’s going to be a success there.”
If Folau is to play outside centre for the Wallabies this year, it could offer a chance for the electric Beale to revert to fullback.
NSW remain third in the Australian conference with a 3-4 record.
“The performance is a shot of confidence for our team, we created a lot of opportunities and this week we finished which was really pleasing,”`Gibson said.
“The other aspect of the game that was really good was the way we controlled the game in terms of territory.
“We played smartly which in previous fixtures against the Force we came unstuck in that area.”
The Tahs deliberately kicked more against the Force than in the past.
He will stick with his youngsters, with five players in the starting side against Force having 10 or less caps.
“I think the young guys have really stood up this year,” Gibson said.
“Every game I trust them more. I’ve got a great deal of faith in them.”
Gibson said next weekend’s game would be a true test for his side as they play away to the Stormers, who top the South African group, are second overall and have conceded a league-low 126 points.
Flanker Jack Dempsey has a nerve issue, but is expected to be fit for the game.
Veteran prop Benn Robinson won’t travel to South Africa because of complications with an eye injury which will be monitored.