Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has talked up Israel Folau’s prospects after the superstar confirmed his big new deal with Rugby Australia.
Folau has officially extended his Wallabies and Waratahs careers, confirming a new four-year deal.
The divisive superstar said recently he hoped rugby fans would be able to move on in light of his intention to recommit to the code.
Folau’s series of anti-gay social media posts last year led to a firestorm and placed his career in Australian rugby in doubt.
However the agreement, announced on Saturday morning, will take him through until the end of 2022 – when he wil be 34 – and ensure the sought-after code-hopper spends at least 10 seasons in the 15-man code.
It’s understood he considered offers to return to the NRL, the Queensland Reds or even head overseas to Japan or Europe but ultimately his love for the Wallabies and Waratahs won over.
“I’m really grateful to Rugby Australia and the Waratahs for all they have done for me,” Folau said in a statement issued by NSW Rugby.
“The World Cup is a big target of mine this year and I believe this Wallabies group can go a long way if we keep on improving.
“I’ve also been very fortunate to win a title with the Waratahs in 2014 and looking at the squad right now with some of the young players we’ve got coming through, the future is very bright and I want to be a part of that.”
Having switched to union from league in 2013, Folau already has the fourth-most tries in Wallabies Test history with a strike rate of just over one touchdown in every two games he has played in the gold jersey.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika says he’s excited that Folau is staying in the sport.
“Israel’s contribution to the Wallabies since making the switch shows why he’s one of the best players in the world,” Cheika said.
“It is great to see him make a long-term commitment to the Wallabies and Waratahs and I know that he’s still very keen to become an even better player in that time, as well as achieve success with the Wallabies.
“I’m sure he is ready to kick off his new adventure in rugby with a huge year in 2019 — he trained hard at the national camp in early January and you can see he is ready for a big one.”