Izzy wings it for Wallabies debut against Lions

JIM MORTON
Last updated 18:59 16/06/2013
Israel Folau
Getty Images
WINGING IT: Robbie Deans has all but confirmed Israel Folau will start the first test against the Lions.

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Israel Folau will have the chance to shock the British and Irish Lions much the same way another league convert, Jason Robinson, hurt the Wallabies 12 years ago when he becomes a dual international on Saturday night.

Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has all but confirmed Folau will line up in the first Test at a sold-out Suncorp Stadium after continuing his impressive transition to rugby in Camp Wallaby over the past fortnight.

Deans strongly indicated the code-hopper would debut against the Lions, banking on his big-match temperament and natural talent to handle the ferocious intensity of the occasion.

The former Kangaroos three-quarter has ticked all the boxes in training in Sydney and the Sunshine Coast and is viewed as a potential game-breaker in spite of his inexperience.

Fielding every high ball in the wet under the pressure of chasers was just one training feat which highlighted Folau's class.

"He's shown what a quality player and also a quality bloke he is - he's been great," Deans said on flying into Brisbane on Sunday afternoon.

"He copes very well in every way, not only in terms of picking up on content but he just embraces the challenge.

"He knows he's well equipped to deal with it and he has a real calmness about him mentally and in the physical situations."

Twelve years ago, it was Englishman Robinson, in just his fourth Test, who exploded in the first Test in Brisbane, scorching past Chris Latham to set the Lions on the road to an emphatic 29-13 win.

A dangerous and highly involved fullback for the NSW Waratahs, Folau is also set to start on the wing, an area Australia look like gaining a surprise advantage following injuries to the tourists' preferred finishers.

Deans reported tackle-shedding flyer Digby Ioane had made significant strides in his return from knee surgery and was a realistic chance of also starting on the left wing on Saturday night.

In contrast, the Lions' wing stocks have taken worrying hits with Irishman Tommy Bowe (broken hand) sent home and dangerman George North in serious doubt with a hamstring injury.

It seems former Crusader Sean Maitland is battling with Alex Cuthbert and late Irish call-up Simon Zebo to start.

Deans still has injury concerns of his own with Wycliff Palu battling his way back from a knee niggle and a host of players - Kurtley Beale, James O'Connor, Pat McCabe, Hugh McMeniman and Ioane - who have hardly played in the past six weeks.

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He admitted the lack of match fitness would be a factor in selections when his team is named on Thursday.

Deans kept well away from cheating claims aimed at the Lions' scrum but was well impressed by their 47-17 win over the NSW Waratahs.

"They showed they are going to be formidable foes," he said.

- AAP

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