Folau unfazed by Jones criticism

Israel Folau has welcomed Karmichael Hunt’s audacious bid to steal his Wallabies No.15 jumper as the dual international battles through the most challenging season of his five-year rugby career.

Folau’s Super Rugby form has mirrored the NSW Waratahs, with neither the star player or struggling team able to find top gear during the first half of the competition.

The tournament’s two-time top tryscorer has crossed just three times in nine games, matching the Waratahs’ meagre return of wins, as he’s shuffled between fullback and outside centre.

Folau on Tuesday said he was unfazed at being dubbed overrated by former Wallabies coach Alan Jones, but conceded his performances had been down.

“I’m always holding the bar pretty high and holding those high standards to the way I think I can play and I’ve got to say it’s been a challenging year,” he said ahead of the Waratahs’ hosting of Auckland’s Blues on Saturday night.

“But there’s no excuses. Everything’s come from my end.

“Even though it’s challenging, it’s a great time to also grow as a person and as a player.”

“That’s really what I’m taking out of this whole situation; just not getting caught up in. (I’ll) just try and push through and take it as it comes I guess.”

Folau’s Waratahs edged Hunt’s Queensland Reds 29-26 in a tense conference derby last Saturday night in Brisbane.

Once again, though, Hunt excelled for the Reds to continue his push for a Wallabies debut this winter.

“I’ve caught a a few of the highlights on the way the Reds have been playing and one thing that I’m really happy about and is good to see is Karmichael playing well,” Folau said.

“I’m stoked to see that. He’s playing with a lot of confidence and he did that again on the weekend against us, which is great to see.”

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is on record as saying Folau remains his first-choice fullback, particularly with Dane Haylett-Petty racing the clock to be fit for the first Test of the year against Fiji on June 10 in Melbourne.

Folau, though, remains wary of his former Brisbane Broncos, Queensland State of Origin and Australian Test rugby league teammate.

“It’s a healthy thing when guys are really pushing each other,” Folau said.

“For me, it’s always a time when I have to really earn the jersey. I’m never thinking that I’m always going to get that jersey on.

“So it’s great to see guys like Karmichael push and hopefully he does get the opportunity to put that gold jersey on because I’m sure he’ll make the most of it.”