Australia's 'giant' can dash Lions dreams, warns Waugh
Australia legend Phil Waugh is hoping the Wallabies will unleash their “giant” to crush the dreams of the Lions.
The tourists go into Saturday’s first Test in confident mood after a fine start to their tour, which has seen them lose just one of their six matches.
But Waugh, who won 79 caps and captained his country, says his compatriots won’t fear Warren Gatland’s men, but the Lions should fear Israel Folau. The 24-year-old is set for a dream Test debut on the wing in the Brisbane clash, having starred in both rugby league and then Aussie rules before switching to rugby union this season with the New South Wales Waratahs.
And Waugh reckons he has all the qualities to be a big hit like Sonny Bill Williams, now back in the NRL after winning the World Cup with the All Blacks.
“Size-wise he’s a giant, but the way Israel has adapted to the 15-man game has been very impressive,” said former Waratahs skipper Waugh. “I’ve been surprised and I think he’s getting better and better.
“Because he’s so big, his ability to draw in the defence and still offload, there’s not many who can do that. It’s not quite Sonny Bill Williams yet, but it’s that same sort of size and poise on the field.
“I think he will be used going forward and I hope they select him. He’s got a fairly rounded game, he can kick, run and pass and get himself out of trouble. He has a different physique to David Campese on the wing, but is just as dangerous.
“He’s still fresh in the game and time will tell how good he can be. It’s exciting.
“He’s got a huge following in NRL and AFL and that ability to spark an attack and that other guys can run off, you’d want him in your team.
“I think we will really see the best of him in the 2015 World Cup if we can secure his signature. On the back of this Lions series, hopefully he will want more of it.”
Words of warning: Phil Waugh has backed Israel Folau to inflict damage on the Lions.
Waugh would love the Wallabies to provide a much-needed boost to the nation, with Australia’s cricket team in disarray ahead of the Ashes.
“Sport is such a huge part of our country and everyone, whether rugby followers or not, will be keeping an eye on this series,” he added. “With Aussies, we have always got a certain amount of confidence, and we are competitive in what we do.
“It hasn’t been easy recently, but I said when Adam Scott won the Masters at Augusta that was the start of the Aussie sporting revival.
“Then we would win the Lions series and come over and win the Ashes. I’m at the Lord’s Test and friendly with Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin so that would be good to see. We could do with a lift.”
Phil Waugh was speaking on behalf of HSBC, Principal Partner of The British & Irish Lions on their Tour to Australia. Follow the Lions’ Legendary Journey at www.youtube.com/LionsHSBC