Waratah gutted to hear Folau may want out

Darren Walton
Ned Hanigan says he'd be shattered if superstar teammate Israel Folau left the NSW Waratahs

Wallabies forward Ned Hanigan says he'd be shattered if superstar teammate Israel Folau left the NSW Waratahs.

Off contract at the end of 2018, Folau has been linked to a move to the Queensland Reds in Brisbane, where he grew up.

The three-times John Eales Medallist has reportedly held talks with Reds coach Brad Thorn, which Hanigan said was surprising.

"The Reds? This is all new stuff," Hanigan said after Folau looked anything but a player who wanted out as he joked with teammates during Waratahs training on Wednesday.

"I can honestly say you guys saying that to me now is the first I've heard of it and that's a good thing.

"If that was circulating in the sheds, then obviously it would be an issue.

"But it's not for us because the way he's conducting himself around the group, he's keeping those two things separate, which is really good."

But with Folau's wife at the weekend tweeting to the Waratahs asking why her husband was repeatedly being shunted to the wing, the 29-year-old could privately be feeling discontent after five and a half seasons with the 2014 champions.

While Folau has been mired in controversy over the past month for his controversial stance on homosexuality and same-sex marriage, Hanigan said the Waratahs fully supported the code-hopping superstar "as a teammate".

"There's obviously been a bit around Izzy of late," Hanigan said.

"He came back into the squad (after being injured) and I can honestly say his preparation for that Blues game (last Saturday) was first class, which is testament to the athlete he is and his performance he had against the Blues, I reckon he was best on park.

"So he'll be the same around here this week and that stuff hasn't affected us at all."

Hanigan said he'd personally looked up to Folau throughout his three-year Super Rugby career.

"He's a good bloke to have around and I know as a young guy coming through in 2016, he was a guy who always carried himself with a smile, puts an arm around a young kid," he said ahead of the Waratahs' clash with the defending champion Crusaders on Saturday.

"If you took a bloke of his stature and comes up to you and just offers anything, it's special.

"That's why I get along with him so well, because he's warming and he's like that.

"His outside world is his outside world. But when he's here, he's here for the group, and I'd be immensely disappointed if he was going to leave because I like him as a guy, he's awesome on the field, he's a fellow that you want to give the ball to because he creates stuff.

"No-one can deny that."