As good as it gets

Israel Folau reckons facing the British & Irish Lions for the Qantas Wallabies today will rank as high as any of his past achievements in rugby league and Australian Rules Football. [more]

As good as it gets

Israel Folau reckons facing the British & Irish Lions for the Qantas Wallabies today will rank as high as any of his past achievements in rugby league and Australian Rules Football.

The code-hopping superstar only headed to union at the start of the southern hemisphere season but will now make his Wallaby debut in the opening Test of what should be an enthralling three-match series.

Folau was playing AFL this time last year but it is his record in rugby league that really stands out. Now 24, Folau made his National Rugby League debut at the age of just 17 and broke Billy Slater's league record for most tries in a debut season after notching 21 in 26 appearances.

His fine form saw him named NRL Rookie of the Year in 2007 and he went on to play in two Grand Finals, five State of Origin games and win seven caps for the Kangaroos. He picked up the man of the match award in one of those Origin victories for Queensland, scored five tries for his country and was named the Centre of the Year at the prestigious Daily M Awards in 2008.

Regarded as one of the greatest talents to hit rugby league in the modern era, Folau moved from Melbourne Storm to Brisbane for the 2009 season before announcing his shock switch to Aussie Rules after just a single campaign with the Broncos.

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Fast forward to this summer and Folau is all set to write a new chapter in his remarkable career – one which he insists he is even more excited about than anything that has gone before.

“It’s certainly up there with what I’ve achieved in the past in both rugby league and AFL. This is a very exciting time for me. It’s a great achievement and I’m looking forward to getting out there,” said Folau, who at 18 years and 194 days was Australia’s youngest rugby league international.

“I’ve never played in a big game quite like this before so it’s kind of going into the unknown. I know the history is very important so that’s what makes it a lot more exciting for me personally.

“This time last year I was playing AFL but things have changed a lot in a short time. I haven’t regretted anything and it’s been a great journey for me so far. This is probably the start of an exciting one and Saturday’s going to be huge for me.”

Folau has played the vast majority of his rugby in the Waratahs No15 shirt but has been picked on the right wing rather than at full back by Qantas Wallabies head coach Robbie Deans.

But a lack of game time out wide and the prospect of going head to head with Lions star George North isn’t worrying the 6ft 3in Folau, who insists he is more than ready to play his part in what he hopes will be a famous Wallaby win.

“I’ve had plenty of time to train myself at playing on the wing. I feel very comfortable training there and (with) the opportunities I’ve had playing there so far, it doesn’t worry me. It will be the same mindset that I’ll take into Saturday night and nothing will change,” added Folau.

“I’m 100 per cent comfortable in myself and in the way I go about things. I back myself, especially in a game like this. Even though it’s my first rugby season, I’m very confident in being selected and being a part of this team.

“North is a quality player. I’m going to have to do my homework on him and I’ve been doing that for the last couple of weeks. It’s going to be a tough challenge for me but I’ve just got to go out there and do my best and try and limit his opportunities. We’ve got to be switched on and ready to play because they are going to be a tough outfit to contain. We’ve got to be on our game.”

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