Dual international Israel Folau is tantalisingly close to signing a two-year deal with Australian rugby after agreeing to terms with the NSW Waratahs.
It is understood the Wallabies winger, who made his name in rugby league and experimented with AFL before switching to rugby union eight months ago, has agreed to play two more seasons under Michael Cheika at NSW and is now waiting for the Australian Rugby Union to come to the party before the deal is made official.
The Waratahs and the ARU, who both stump up funding for Wallabies players, were hoping to have matters finalised soon after the British and Irish Lions series, in which Folau made his Test debut in stunning fashion. But as time drags on it appears increasingly possible Folau could go into the Wallabies' Rugby Championship campaign under new coach Ewen McKenzie next month without his future locked down.
Folau was spotted in the company of departing Canterbury chief executive Todd Greenberg at the State of Origin decider last week and was as recently as yesterday linked to NRL side Manly after he was spotted training on the Northern Beaches.
Each sighting has prompted another wave of speculation the cross-code star is contemplating a switch back to the code that made him a household name, but Cheika has remained quietly confident all year that the Waratahs and the code can retain Folau. ''I always have been [confident] and I'm not changing now,'' Cheika said earlier this month. ''If it's going to be done it's going to be done very soon.''
Folau became the 867th Wallaby when former Test coach Robbie Deans selected him on the wing against the Lions in the series opener in Brisbane on June 22, capping his remarkable rise from rugby novice to assured performer in the space of a single season.
He scored two tries on debut at Suncorp Stadium and, despite Australia's disappointing loss in the third and deciding Test, remarked that his time in the gold jersey had been ''[one] of the best experiences I have had in my sporting career''.
He will on Friday be named by McKenzie in the 40-man squad the new coach will take into the Bledisloe Cup series and Rugby Championship next month.
- Sydney Morning Herald
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