Wallabies' Israel Folau should be wary of switching rugby codes
Rugby fraternity welcome plan by Wallabies' Folau to switch codes for Tokyo 2020, but warn of difficulties
With Tokyo 2020 just over a year away, star Wallabies fullback Israel Folau last month said he was keen on playing for Australia's sevens team at the Olympics.
The 2017 World Rugby Player of the Year finalist and all-time top try scorer in Super Rugby won't be the only star from the more high-profile 15-a-side game to be enticed by the prospect of Olympic gold.
Ahead of rugby's return to the Olympic fold in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, ex-World Cup winner and World Rugby Player of the Year Bryan Habana and Jarryd Hayne, a former Player of the Tournament in the 13-a-side Rugby League World Cup, both failed to adapt their skills to the sevens format of the game.
Fiji Sevens captain Paula Dranisinukula, however, pointed to compatriot Semi Radradra as proof that it is possible to transfer the oval-ball skills of the 13s and 15s games to the sevens.
Speaking at the sidelines of the Fiji side's visit to KK Women's and Children's Hospital yesterday, the 29-year-old told The New Paper: "A good example is Semi Radradra.
"He played rugby league and is now playing Top 14 rugby (union) in France and last year played for Fiji in the World Rugby Sevens Series.
"I think he can have a go at the Olympics... Israel is a very talented player. He can manage in any environment...
"He will be a big boost for Australian rugby at the Olympics."
The coaches of the top two teams in the World Rugby Sevens Series - Mike Friday of the United States and Fiji's Gareth Baber - too, were excited at the prospect of the 30-year-old Folau trying to tweak his talents for the sevens game, but cautioned that the transition is "not as easy as" players think.
Speaking ahead of the series' Singapore leg at the Singapore Sports Hub over this weekend, Friday pointed to the case of former rugby league star and All Blacks forward Sonny Bill Williams, who played for New Zealand at Rio 2016.
He told TNP: "For me, if Israel Folau wants to have a go, lovely. What an absolute dream of a rugby player.
"The interesting thing for Israel Folau is that it is easy to say, but not that easy to do.
"As Sonny Bill would say, he didn't realise how hard he had to work...
"Same with Bryan Habana, Quade Cooper. These are all golden players of the 15s game.
"I'd love to see if he (Folau) can make the adjustment and expose himself to the wide open spaces that he's not familiar with in the 15s game.
"I'd love to see (All Blacks) Damian McKenzie or Rieko Ioane come back, so I think there is an opportunity for these 15s boys to stake a claim, (but) I don't think it's easy as they think it is.
"Now, I think the rugby fraternity... understand how athletically supreme the sevens players are."
Baber, who is tasked with retaining Fiji's historic first gold, meanwhile, said personality was as key as athletic ability in deciding if a player from the richer, more glamorous codes of rugby is worth the risk in sevens.
He said: "There is a lot that we do as coaches and a lot of pain that we go through to get our teams to where they need to be.
"What we're guarded about is ensuring that anybody that comes into that is one, athletically able to cope with it. And two, is the type of person that you want to in your system and guard your culture?
"When you get to tough times in tournaments and get to semi-finals, those are the people you want to have on the field, those are those you trust.
"I played 15s and sevens, Mike did as well, we know how difficult that was. And now it's a lot more difficult, simply because the game has moved along so much."