Israel Folau has agreed to a four-year deal. Picture: AAP
Israel Folau has agreed to a four-year deal. Picture: AAP

Waratahs to wing it with Folau at fullback

THE Waratahs have agreed to give Australia's Test players more time off next season to keep them fresh for the World Cup but have ruled out switching Israel Folau from fullback to wing even though Wallabies now prefer him there.

Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson has conceded that he overplayed some of his star players during this year's Super Rugby season as NSW made a late-season charge to get within one match of the final.

The Tahs' late burst came at a price for the Wallabies with some high-profile players showing signs of burnout by the time the international season rolled around, with Bernard Foley briefly losing his place as starting five-eighth.

"One of the learnings I took from last season was I played our top team far too often and I'd like to be able to manage that better next season," Gibson said.

The issue was one of several topics discussed at a recent meeting between Test coach Michael Cheika and Australia's Super Rugby coaches to ensure the Wallabies are in prime condition for next year's World Cup in Japan.

Gibson said Super Rugby coaches had traditionally focused on their own self-interests but the consensus now is that it's in everyone's best interests that the Wallabies peak at the World Cup.

"The common interest is we want our players to do well at the World Cup and it's important for Australian rugby that the Wallabies do well," Gibson said.

Waratahs will resist switching Israel Folau to the wing. Picture: AAP
Waratahs will resist switching Israel Folau to the wing. Picture: AAP

"We got to a nice stage where we want to be able to manage our players better and it's something we agree on.

"In previous years we've been very tribal, very insular and worried about our own backyards and one of the things Cheik's done very well is bring us all together."

However, Gibson said he had no plans to switch Folau from fullback and didn't expect the Wallabies coach would ever ask him to do so.

"We haven't had those discussions," Gibson said.

"Cheik has always been very good around when you make decisions it's best for your team so I can't see that changing.

"All that stuff is around what's the best combination for your team, we've been very consistent with that over the years so I can't see that changing."

With the Wallabies due to fly out of Sydney on Saturday and head to Yokohama for next weekend's Bledisloe Cup clash, Folau still hasn't put pen to paper for 2019 but NSW Rugby CEO Andrew Hore said he expected it was only matter of time.

"We hope so, as Cheik's alluded to and we've discussed in the past. We feel we're very close to that occurring," Hore said.

"He might do that while he's on the plane, you can do that nowadays."



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