SYDNEY, Sept 11 (Reuters) - Australia’s Dane Haylett-Petty expects to hand back the number 15 shirt to Israel Folau for Saturday’s Rugby Championship clash against Argentina after standing in for him at fullback for the last two tests.
Folau injured his ankle in last month’s loss to New Zealand in Sydney, missing the return match against the All Blacks in Auckland - also a heavy defeat - as well as the Wallabies’ narrow victory over South Africa last week.
Former rugby league international Folau pulled out of the Brisbane match at the last moment but was back in training on Tuesday and looked on schedule to face the Pumas at the Robina Stadium on Saturday.
“He was really close last week ... and he’s returning to contact slowly this week so I’m expecting he’ll play,” Haylett-Petty told reporters on the Gold Coast.
“I enjoyed playing at the back but it will be great to have Izzy back, one of the world’s greatest players.”
Folau gave the Wallabies something extra, he added.
“He’s a great finisher, he can make something out of nothing, he’s amazing in the air. Just the calmness (and) confidence that he brings to the boys around him, it’s always good to have someone like that in your team,” he said.
Haylett-Petty is likely to revert to the wing against Argentina having initially been named in the number 14 shirt before Folau’s withdrawal.
Folau was one of three players who pulled out of the match after the team had been named, with loose forward David Pocock succumbing to a neck injury and lock Adam Coleman withdrawing for “family reasons”.
Haylett-Petty, who thought Pocock also looked good to be available for Saturday, said the fact that Australia had managed a first victory of the competition despite all the disruption showed great resilience.
“The boys had to make changes on the run and adapt,” he added.
“I think it gave us a lot of confidence to win. Not the prettiest of games but to be able to grind it out, there was a lot of heart in that performance.”
The three late withdrawals came after coach Michael Cheika had sprung a surprise by dropping Bernard Foley and putting Kurtley Beale in at flyhalf to share the playmaking role with inside centre Matt Toomua.
Assistant coach Stephen Larkham thought the new pairing had worked well, even if the team had not taken advantage of the field position they were given.
“It was a good combination, Kurtley was very energetic when he got his hands on the ball and took a couple of opportunities to run,” said the former Australia flyhalf.
“If I look at the playmaking role in the team, I thought they did a fantastic job with getting us into the 22 and then as a whole team we can do better in that 22.” (Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Peter Rutherford)