Reds to limit Israel's damage
February 24, 2014
Israel Folau soared over the Force making easy work of the high ball © Getty Images
Looking forward to Saturday night's interstate grudge match, the Queensland Reds duo were quick to acknowledge that it's nigh-on impossible to keep the freakish Folau quiet. But they will do all they can to limit his damage at ANZ Stadium, especially after the code-hopper scorched the Western Force for a hat-trick in NSW's 43-21 thrashing on Sunday.
For one, Queensland won't be kicking - contestable high-balls or otherwise - to Folau at all. The Force aimed way too many in the Test fullback's direction and he made them pay in the six-try demolition at Allianz Stadium.
The Reds, instead, will aim to hit wide open spaces through the boots of Cooper and left-footer Ben Tapuai to ensure their kick-chase line is well set against Folau. But it's also easier said than done.
"He's worked very hard at his game in terms of positional play and understanding the role of a fullback and it showed out during the Wallabies' Spring Tour [last November]," said Cooper, who was extremely impressed by the dual international's hunger to improve in his debut season.
"He's the type of guy who wants to be the best at what he does and he has the drive to do that. When I got to know Izzy I got to see how he operates and everything he does is very professional - it's all based around his performance and how to be a better player, and I learned a lot off him."
Like Cooper, Genia felt Folau was only going to become a bigger handful in his second season of Super Rugby due to his professionalism.
"I honestly didn't think he was going to be as good as he is," the halfback said. "It's incredible how quickly he picked up the game. I think he can get better. He's got that remarkable thirst to want to be better, and there's areas he wants to improve."
Genia, who returned to top form in the European Tour, has been criticised in the past for his box-kicking but dismissed thoughts of hoisting any against the Waratahs.
"We'll look to kick long," he said. "We won't kick contestable kicks to Israel because we know he's going to catch them 99 per cent of the time."
While both traditional rivals have taken attacking blueprints into the 2014 season, Cooper foreshadowed a typically dogged, no-holds-barred contest by saying the Reds will do whatever it takes to win the Bob Templeton Cup clash.
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