Letting Israel Folau leave for rugby league would be a ‘crazy’ move according to one of the most respected figures in Australian rugby.
Folau announced himself on the Test scene in stunning circumstances last month as he bagged a brace of tries in the opening international against the British & Irish Lions in Brisbane.
The Lions may have ended up 23-21 winners in the opening rubber and 2-1 victors in the three-match series but Folau’s performances earmarked him as one of the biggest stars in the global game.
The 24-year-old finished off Will Genia’s fine break for his first try at the Suncorp Stadium before producing a stunning run from 40 metres out to claim his second in the same fixture as he capped a remarkable Test debut with a man-of-the-match display.
The fact that Folau had only been playing union for four months prior to facing the Lions made his efforts even more eye catching and immediately led the Australian public to pin their future hopes on the former Australian Rules Footballer.
But with rugby league clubs poised to try and prize Folau back into the 13-man code once his contract with the Waratahs and Australian Rugby Union runs out later this year, Tahs assistant coach Alan Gaffney is urging both parties to stand firm and make Folau the kind of offer he simply can’t refuse.
"Rugby, if we didn't keep Izzy on board, I think we'd be crazy. And I'm talking about both the NSW Waratahs and the ARU," said ex-Saracens, Ireland and Leinster coach Gaffney.
"I think they want to run down that path. I just hope the powers that be make sure that we do retain Izzy in union. As far as I know, (talks are) pretty well advanced.
"He's a publicity machine. He's a marketing machine as such. I'm not trying to use Izzy as that because he's made up for himself just in his general play. He's just a good player and a good guy, which is more important. We've had a fantastic time with Izzy and I hope that continues."
Gaffeny admits that the past week might not have been the best time to negotiate with Folau given that rugby league’s showpiece event, the third and final State of Origin clash between New South Wales and Queensland took place yesterday in Sydney.
Folau played five Origin games for the Maroons during his time in the sport and Gaffeny knows the atmosphere and excitement created at the ANZ Stadium – the home of the Lions’ 41-16 win over the Wallabies earlier this month – would have certainly heightened everyone’s interest in the rival code.
"No, it's not a good time (to negotiate with Folau). There would have been a buzz last night for everyone watching State of Origin," added Gaffney.
"I don't think there'd be too many people not watching it, whether you follow league, union or whatever.
"But at the same time, Izzy's really had a good time (in rugby). He's set his mark in 12 months on the game. He's done exceedingly well. I know he is enjoying it, but obviously he comes from a rugby league background."