Israel Folau taking break from rugby, won't travel on Spring Tour

Out of nowhere: Michael Cheika has announced Israel Folau will take a break from rugby. Photo: AAP
Out of nowhere: Michael Cheika has announced Israel Folau will take a break from rugby. Photo: AAP

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has made the shock announcement star fullback Israel Folau will take a break from rugby and won't play another Test for Australia this year.

Folau, who has chalked up 62 Tests since his debut in 2013, has decided to take a hiatus after the weekend's Barbarians game in Sydney.

The 28-year-old won't go on the Wallabies' end of season tour to Japan and Europe in a bid to freshen his body up for the 2018 and 2019 seasons leading into the World Cup.

Folau had an option in his contract to take up a short-term deal with a Japanese club in the Top League but he did not exercise that.

He could have joined the Wallabies for Tests against Japan, Wales, England and Scotland but he and Cheika decided some months ago the final Bledisloe Cup Test in Brisbane would be his last of the year.

"Israel won't be going on the tour at the end of the year," Cheika told reporters on Sunday. "He had it in his contract the ability to take a Japan leg if he wanted to and we discussed it and we thought it might be better for him to have a break and come back fresh next year.

"He's played a lot of footy. He's been doing so well. I would prefer him to have that break than to have gone there and it's a good balance for all of us.

"He's been under the microscope every single day since he's come to rugby. It'll be a chance for him to get out of that for a moment and rest his body, rest his mind, take a well-earned breather and get back into it from day one of Super Rugby next year. Get a good pre-season under his belt and away you go."

Folau has been in a purple patch for the Wallabies, having scored 12 tries in 10 games.

He was on track to go close to breaking the world record mark of 17 tries in a calendar year but this decision has curtailed any chance of that.

It is a blow for Australian rugby fans who have loved seeing Folau in such a rich vein of form but Cheika insists the try-scoring record was the last thing on his mind.

"He's definitely not that type of guy. I know you'll make out like it's something special in particular, but the reality is it's part of building our depth too, to get other players to take responsibility there.

"I think this is a better outcome."

The Wallabies will now need a replacement fullback for their remaining four Tests of the year.

"There's different options for us," Cheika said. "[Reece] Hodge, [Kurtley] Beale, there's a few options at fullback. We'll see how it pans out. It's not a bombshell. It's a positive."

This story Folau taking break from rugby, won't travel on Spring Tour first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.