Wallaby weapon Israel Folau has declared his desire to make this World Cup his own as he aims to carve out his own legacy – starting in the opening clash against Fiji.
Seven World Cup debutants have been named to start against Fiji at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, but none of them will take the field with more pressure placed upon them than Folau.
The two-time John Eales medallist, dubbed `world class’ by backs coach Stephen Larkham, puts much of that expectation upon himself as he seeks a place in history alongside the likes of Jonah Lomu and Tim Horan.
“For every player this is where they want to dominate,” he said.
“This is as high as you go, play against the best of the best around the world.
“Every player who steps out there, they want to play the best they can possibly play and it’s no different to myself.
“You don’t want to try to force that too much otherwise it ends up too hard but I guess you want to be confident and play free-flowing type rugby.
“That’s not about force, but being the best you can be.”
Folau has spent his entire career in the spotlight, ever since making an immediate impact as an 18-year-old NRL winger with the Melbourne Storm.
He has played on the biggest of stages – from State of Origins, to Bledisloe Cups and both Super Rugby and NRL grand finals.
Teammate Will Genia is unequivocal in his belief that the 26-year-old is ready to take the World Cup head on.
“He has expectation every time he plays. He manages it very well,” Genia said.
“He goes through a very similar process every time he plays.
“It obviously works for him and it’s something that he trusts.
“You’ve just got to let him do his thing (because) more often than not he’s going to perform.
“Little guys like me, I’ll just follow him and see if I can get a try.”
Folau was kept quiet during the Wallabies’ European tour last year, and admits to frustrations about not being able to inject himself more effectively into the attack.
As the prime threat in a lethal Wallabies backline, Folau knows he has to have an impact – and he’s worked hard to ensure he isn’t frozen out of the game by teams starving him of the ball.
Folau insists he wants to pick his moments, but not overplay his hand.
“Last year obviously it was a little frustrating,” he admits.
“I felt oppositions on that spring tour did a great job so it was a credit to them.
“But because I have high standards of myself I’m always going to be feeling down if I don’t feel I’m playing to my expectations.”
Larkham said it was a challenge to find new ways to ensure Folau was involved enough in the game.
“Someone like that you have to make sure that you’ve either got set-piece plays to get him into the game or your multi-phase pattern gets him more touches than others,” he said.