Folau helps guide 'hurt' Wallabies to victory
WALLABIES skipper Michael Hooper says the side used the "hurt” of Australia's dire Super Rugby results to fire up their Test season with victory against Fiji, and nobody was smiling more than Israel Folau.
The superstar fullback has had a mixed 2017 but found vintage form to score two tries in Australia's 37-14 win at Melbourne's AAMI Park.
The floundering state of Australia's Super Rugby season was far from their minds as Wallabies players belted out victory songs in the bowels of the stadium.
"A winning change-room is a fantastic thing, it's been unfortunately a rare thing for a lot of Australian teams this year, so to get the music going, to sing our national anthem in the change-room after the game is a really nice start to the season, something we can build on,” Hooper said.
"Yes we've taken a bit of the hurt from Super Rugby to take out there, and to almost put 40 points on was very pleasing.”
Folau was instrumental in the five tries to two win, scoring twice and having a hand in others.
"I simplify a lot of things, when I try to do too much or things that are out of the norm I tend to push things or not be myself,” Folau said.
"I just went back to really enjoying myself, smiling, just trying to make the most of every moment I get through training and off the field with my teammates, and the same thing applies in my personal life as well.”
Folau benefited from a strong debut by former NRL teammate Karmichael Hunt.
"I really enjoyed it and tried to get involved as much as I could and really enjoy it. It's good to get that one out of the way,” Hunt said.
"For me to put on the jersey is a huge honour for my family.
"I was very surprised (to start at 12) and my head started spinning but I managed to get my head around the plays.
"It's supercool to be back out on the park with Izzy (Folau).”
Hunt also shouldered a heavy defensive workload well and looks to have the creative midfield spark Australia has been seeking since the departure of Kurtley Beale who will challenge Hunt for the No. 12 jersey in The Rugby Championship.
"I thought Karmichael did quite well, and Bernard steered the ship,” Folau said.
"For the first Test of the year we're still trying to get those combinations right with the short preparation we've had.
"But I thought with the limited time we've had, both of them did quite well.”
A small crowd of 13,583 was on hand to witness the opening international of the year, and while this certainly wasn't Fiji's strongest team there were enough experienced players to test Australia's defence.
Australia 37 (Israel Folau 2, Henry Speight 2, Stephen Moore tries; Bernard Foley 3 conversions, 2 penalties), Fiji 14 (Vereniki Goneva, Timoci Nagusa tries; Ben Volavola 2 conversions). HT: 18-0