JOHANNESBURG – Australia coach Michael Cheika insists his team have moved on from the controversy around hotshot 62-Test fullback Israel Folau, who is no longer in the Wallabies set-up.
Folau’s contract with the Australian Rugby Union was terminated following his comments about gays, among others, on social media.
It is unlikely the 30-year-old will play for his country again, but he has appealed against his sacking.
Cheika has given young Brumbies fullback Tom Banks a first shot at taking over the No 15 jersey from the star fullback by naming him in his starting team for Saturday’s Rugby Championship opener against the Springboks at Ellis Park.
Banks was a somewhat surprising pick at fullback ahead of Kurtley Beale, who’ll play off the bench at Ellis Park.
“We can’t deny that Banks was the in-form man in Super Rugby,” said Cheika yesterday.
“It’s simple: He was outstanding for the Brumbies and earned his spot.
“Everyone can see what he brings to the game... he’s fast, and he gets himself into good positions.
“And he’ll work hard on defence, and there will be aerial threats.”
BREAKING l Your #Wallabies team to face the Springboks in the opening game of the #RugbyChampionship.— Qantas Wallabies (@qantaswallabies) July 18, 2019
Watch live on @FOXSportsAUS, @kayosports and free to air on @Channel10AU on Sunday morning at 1.05am AEST.
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Cheika said Banks brought something “different” to Folau at fullback in the Wallabies team, and added that Beale coming off the bench, along with scrumhalf Will Genia, would give his team finishing power.
“There were some difficult choices to make because everyone put so much effort in. Nic White at scrumhalf has earned his spot, like so many others, and I wanted to reward good Super Rugby form.
“But it’ll be good having Will come on later, and Kurtley, too; that’s pretty handy.
“A lot of our game is based on connection, on and off the field, so while a team is made up of 15 players on the field, we’re about 23 guys being connected and committed.”@jacq_west