Izzy pays more heed to Rugby World Cup

Israel Folau cheerfully admits he hasn’t paid much attention to previous Rugby World Cups, but is excited at the prospect of participating in the upcoming tournament, as he continues building one of the most successful dual rugby code careers ever.

Folau on Thursday became the first man to win the John Eales Medal, the Wallabies’ players’ player of the year award, in successive years.

The Waratahs and Wallabies fullback has shown signs in 2015 of developing a more rounded game which has created more opportunities for others, while reducing his prolific tryscoring strike rate of his first two years in the code.

He has featured in the upper reaches of more team-friendly categories like offloads and try assists.

In the space of three years in the 15-a-side code Folau has amassed a staggering collection of individual awards.

At this rate, people might end up talking about the rugby player who once played league, rather than the other way around.

But rewind four years to the time of the last Rugby World Cup and that would have seemed inconceivable.

Folau had yet to embrace that code and was battling to come to grips with the nuances of Australian rules in his ill fated-two year stint with AFL club GWS Giants.

Going even further back to his childhood, Folau never really paid much attention to the Rugby World Cup.

“Not really, my journey was obviously different, playing rugby league as a young kid,” Folau said.

“Obviously I was still with the Giants back in 2011 when the last World Cup was on.

“It’s funny how things turn out. I’m a big believer in God and things happen for a reason I don’t really quite understand at times.

“But I’m just enjoying the journey as it comes and just trying to embrace and make the most of everything that comes my way.”

Folau said it was a combination of self belief, desire and hard work that enabled people like himself and NRL star turned NFL aspirant Jarryd Hayne to take a leap of faith and tackle another football code.

“I think for every person there’s a desire in their heart to know that before they go over and do something that they know inside their heart that they can get that job done,” Folau said.

“Not in an arrogant way, but that’s what you talk about, self belief, that’s what it is.

“It’s not just that by itself, you’ve got to put in the hard work as well once you get over to the other side.”

The 1999 World Cup-winning partnership of captain Eales and coach Rod Macqueen were among those at the Medal presentation to talk optimistically about Australia’s prospects at this year’s tournament.

Folau was keen to justify that faith on the field rather than talk the team up beforehand.

“You’ve got to be confident going into a World Cup otherwise there’s probably no point boarding that plane,” Folau said.

“As a group every team is talking up their chances, but for us we just want to make sure that we can do the talking on the field.”

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