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Cheika : Folau faces a big challenge in 2014

Israel Folau will go up against Kurtley Beale for the Waratahs fullback spot

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Article Published: Thursday 16 January 2014

Waratahs coach Michael Cheika says that his Wallaby fullback Israel Folau faces a big challenge in 2014 but that he has plenty of improvement left in him.

The former Rugby League international Folau enjoyed a spectacular year during his first year of Rugby Union after he moved from AFL side Greater Western Sydney Giants.

Folau equalled Lote Tuqiri's Wallaby record of scoring 10 tries in one calendar year and played in all of Australia's Test matches in 2013. Ironically Tuqiri was also a dual international.

The twenty-four-year-old fullback also won the Super Rugby Rookie of the Year, both the Australian Rugby Union Players Association and International Rugby Players Association Newcomer of the Year and the People's Choice player of the year awards.

Before his first match in Rugby Union there was much speculation over where he would play but after playing his first five matches on the wing he settled at fullback and quickly established a reputation as a game breaker.

Waratahs coach Michael Cheika says that even though Folau has such a great first year there is "plenty" that Folau can improve on in 2014.

"I think there will be a big challenge for him this year, just adjusting from having such a massive season, a small break, backing up again," Cheika told AAP.

"That's a first for him, so we're mindful in the way that we are preparing him this season, both for mental freshness and also physical."

"But his enthusiasm is ridiculous. He wanted to come back early and start training and I had to tell him not to come."

"I think just based on that alone, and his quality, the formula is looking good going forward."

Cheika has not ruled out playing Folau at outside centre in the Waratahs Super Rugby trial matches but said that he doesn't want to tinker too much.

"At this stage he's travelling so well at 15, we're not going to play around too much," Cheika said.

Folau will however be in competition for the fullback position with fellow Wallaby Kurtley Beale who has returned from Melbourne.

When asked who he favoured for the fullback spot Cheika joked, "seven and a half each, that will make 15".

"I'll just see how it pans out. I don't have to worry about selecting the first competition game team until late in February."

The coach said that all of his Wallabies had returned from the christmas break in good shape with no injury concerns.

One of the Waratahs new signings, Springbok forward Jacques Potgieter will join the rest of the squad when he has fulfilled his playing commitments in Japan.

"He (Potgieter) keeps texting me every week, he wants to know how it's going," Cheika said.

"He's very eager to get here.

"I think he's only got one match left in Japan and then he'll be here, so I'm not worried about that."

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