Australia coach Michael O'Connor believes Isreal Folau could make Olympic Rugby Sevens Squad

Australia coach Michael O'Connor believes Isreal Folau could make Olympic Rugby Sevens Squad

AUSTRALIAN sevens coach Michael O'Connor has declared Israel Folau a "sensational" Sevens prospect and hopes he can be kept in rugby before a switch to the Olympics' newest sport. O'Connor said Folau should be in contention for a Wallabies spot ahead of the Lions tour and hopes that will help him resist the NRL clubs chasing his return to the 13-man code next season. Folau has expressed a desire to become an Olympian when Rugby Sevens makes its debut in Rio in 2016 and O'Connor believes he has all the attributes to be a star. "If he had a year of Sevens under his belt, he would be sensational," O'Connor said, confirming he would love to see the former league star remain in rugby.

AUSTRALIAN sevens coach Michael O'Connor has declared Israel Folau a "sensational" Sevens prospect and hopes he can be kept in rugby before a switch to the Olympics' newest sport.

O'Connor said Folau should be in contention for a Wallabies spot ahead of the Lions tour and hopes that will help him resist the NRL clubs chasing his return to the 13-man code next season.

Folau has expressed a desire to become an Olympian when Rugby Sevens makes its debut in Rio in 2016 and O'Connor believes he has all the attributes to be a star.

"If he had a year of Sevens under his belt, he would be sensational," O'Connor said, confirming he would love to see the former league star remain in rugby.

"He's a lovely player to watch."

"He's a good mover and athlete, I think it'd be a shame (for him to leave). Why wouldn't he stay in rugby?"

Folau has made such a good fist of his third professional football code that O'Connor believes he could be in line for a Wallabies call up in June.

"I thought he played his best game on the weekend for the Waratahs. He's just good in all aspects of the game," former dual international O'Connor said.

"He's a good defender, he's fantastic in the air, a good runner, he likes to get that popped ball away, offloads really well.

"I'd be surprised actually if he's not in the picture for the Lions this year."

But Folau - and any other athlete looking to head to the Olympics - will not be handed a walk-up start.

"It wouldn't be a case of just playing the Olympics. You'd have to play a season of IRB (Sevens) because these guys now have been playing for seven or eight years and have a really intricate understanding of how the game is played and the tactics," O'Connor said.

"I'm also cognisant of the fact that most of our squad now is under 20 and I'm trying to keep them together and not take the incentive away from them by saying that the Wallabies will just come in wholesale.

"That won't happen. But there may be one or two.

"James O'Connor has indicated he's really keen and he's played Sevens before, so we'd definitely look at individual cases.

"But it's really important that these guys playing now know that there's a pathway and a carrot at the end for them."

But if Folau was prepared to commit to the program, O'Connor could see him as a Sevens star.

"Restarts are so important (in Sevens) and I can't see anyone taking a restart off him.

"You'd have someone like a James Stannard or Matt Lucas, who are just so accurate with the restart (kicks), looking for Israel Folau, who takes it because you can't touch him in the air, then you've got possession, momentum, and on top of that, he's a try-scorer.

"He'd be good."

O'Connor will return to the Gold Coast with the Australian Sevens outfit for the opening round of the 2013-14 IRB World Series on October 12-13.