Israel Folau will miss Australia’s end-of-season tour and take a complete break from rugby after next weekend’s clash with the Barbarians, coach Michael Cheika has confirmed.
The 28-year-old scored his 12th international try of the season in the Wallabies’ 23-18 win over the All Blacks on Saturday night, having started every Test match this year.
But Saturday’s non-cap match against the Alan Jones-coached Barbarians at Allianz Stadium will be his last outing for the year – a shock decision Cheika revealed had been made months ago.
Folau had the opportunity to play club rugby in Japan over the summer as part of his flexible contract with the Australian Rugby Union.
But after sitting down with Cheika, he opted to step away from the game completely – meaning he won’t be involved in the Test matches against Japan, Wales, England and Scotland to finish the season.
Cheika said it was a “good outcome” for all concerned.
“It’s a good time for him to have some time away from the spotlight, just sit down and relax. He doesn’t get a lot of chance to do that,” Cheika told reporters on Sunday.
“He’s been under the microscope every single day since he’s come to rugby. And I think it’ll be a chance for him to get out of that for a moment, rest his body, rest his mind, take a well-earned breather and then get back into it from day one of Super Rugby next year.
“A good pre-season under his belt and away we go.
“I respect him a lot as a player and as a person … he’s been really good about managing the whole situation to get the right outcome for himself and for the long run, for the team.”
Cheika rested 13 players from the third Bledisloe Cup Test for the Barbarians clash, among them captain Michael Hooper and the in-form Kurtley Beale.
But he has brought in fresh blood, with Test veterans James Slipper and Ben McCalman recalled after recovering from long-term injuries along with Kane Douglas, Kyle Godwin and rookie Queensland back-rower Liam Wright.
Cheika won’t name his squad for the end-of-year tour until after the Barbarians match, leaving the door ajar for a potential bolter to present their case for selection.
Meanwhile, Rob Simmons has been cleared of any major injury to his neck after he was stretchered from Suncorp Stadium early in the second half.
WALLABIES INS AND OUTS FOR BARBARIANS CLASH
IN: James Slipper, Ben McCalman, Kane Douglas, Kyle Godwin, Liam Wright, Jake Gordon, Jermaine Ainsley, Folau Fainga’a, Duncan Paia’aua.
OUT: Scott Sio, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Sekope Kepu, Rob Simmons, Adam Coleman, Michael Hooper, Sean McMahon, Will Genia, Bernard Foley, Kurtley Beale, Reece Hodge, Marika Koroibete, Tevita Kuridrani (all rested), Izack Rodda (shoulder).
WALLABIES SQUAD FOR BARBARIANS CLASH
FORWARDS: Jermaine Ainsley, Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Jack Dempsey, Kane Douglas, Folau Fainga’a, Tetera Faulkner, Ned Hanigan, Ben McCalman, Stephen Moore, Tom Robertson, James Slipper, Lopeti Timani, Lukhan Tui, Jordan Uelese, Liam Wright.
BACKS: Israel Folau, Kyle Godwin, Jake Gordon, Karmichael Hunt, Samu Kerevi, Billy Meakes, Duncan Paia’aua, Izaia Perese, Nick Phipps, Joe Powell, Curtis Rona, Henry Speight.