Folau to tackle Barbarians in new position

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has flagged a move away from fullback for Israel Folau in his last match of 2017 against the Barbarians.

Folau will take a break from rugby after Saturday night’s clash at Allianz Stadium, having reached an agreement with Cheika several months ago to be rested from the end-of-year tour Tests against Japan, Wales, England and Scotland.

It’s a decision Cheika believes will not only make the 28-year-old a better player – and ensure he is refreshed for the long through to the World Cup – but also make the Wallabies a better team.

Folau’s absence means a new fullback will need to be found for the upcoming tour, and Cheika said he will likely treat the match against the Alan Jones-coached Barbarians as a good chance to look at his options.

“I might play someone else there, you never know,” Cheika said.

“Maybe (I’ll) move Izzy around, let him run a different position for this game.

“We’ll find the right solution as we come into the week and try to maybe even use that as a bit of a preparation for the tour going ahead.”

Folau has previously played on the wing for the Wallabies while there were strong calls last year for him to be shifted to outside centre.

Meanwhile, Karmichael Hunt is considered the leading candidate for the No.15 jersey on tour.

Hunt missed selection for the third Bledisloe Cup victory over New Zealand but proved in June he was well-equipped to handle the rigours of Test rugby and plays his Super Rugby at fullback for Queensland.

“He brings a big presence there and he’s an experienced player, he’s got X-factor. He’s definitely a player I’d consider for that role,” Cheika said.

Other contenders include Kurtley Beale and Reece Hodge, who are both current starters and would leave vacancies at inside centre and on the left wing if they were to cover for Folau.

That could provide Cheika with even more more scope to experiment with those positions as he seeks to add depth to the national ranks.

“The Barbarians match in particular… it’s a game I’m really looking forward to because this is going to be an opportunity for a lot of guys who have been training hard, working hard for their teammates and haven’t had the chance to put the jersey on,” he said.

“This is going to be it.

“And there might be room for a bolter or someone to come on the tour.”

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