Tense times for Waratahs as they chase Folau

DARREN WALTON
Last updated 17:12 18/07/2013
Israel Folau
Getty Images
PRIORITY: The Waratahs are wary of approaching Israel Folau during Origin time, with the former league player having previously appeared for Queensland.

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The NSW Waratahs admit negotiating with sought-after dual international Israel Folau is risky business at State of Origin crunch time.

The Waratahs remain quietly confident of retaining Folau for the 2014 Super Rugby season, and hopefully beyond, saying talks with the Wallabies revelation are "pretty well advanced".

But backline coach Alan Gaffney, himself a diehard South Sydney fan, admits it's a nervous time trying to get Folau to put pen to paper in the week of rugby league's showpiece Origin series decider.

The youngest player to make his rugby league Test debut, Folau also made five Origin appearances for Queensland before switching codes in 2011, firstly to the AFL and then to rugby this year.

He is still in the sights of 2012 NRL grand finalists Canterbury and Gaffney suspected the 24-year-old would have been on the edge of his seat as the Maroons hung on to clinch an eighth straight series win with a 12-10 victory over NSW at ANZ Stadium.

"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," Gaffney said.

"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 as such."

Gaffney was hopeful Folau would remain with the Tahs after being their leading tryscorer and making a spectacular Wallabies debut against the British and Irish Lions last month.

"As far as I know, (talks are) pretty well advanced," he said.

"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.

"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.

"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."

If it does, and the Waratahs also confirm the return of fellow Wallabies backline ace Kurtley Beale, the door would likely be closed for Benji Marshall, who has been linked to the franchise after requesting a release from the Wests Tigers.

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"Obviously anyone would have to look at Benji Marshall, being such a great player," Gaffney said.

"But obviously if we get certain other individuals (Folau and Beale) to come on board, whether there's a balance there for him to even fit into the Waratahs is a debatable issue."

- AAP

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