MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Wallabies fullback Israel Folau is undecided on whether he will commit to Michael Cheika’s team next year, despite the lure of a second World Cup appearance in Japan.
The dual code international is out of contract at the end of the 2018 season and said he would not rush into a decision on his playing future.
“Look, (the World Cup) is something I enjoyed last time around. But, in saying that, there’s plenty of options on the line and, when that time comes, I’ll make a decision when I’m ready,” Folau told local media on Wednesday.
“There’s no rush. I want to make sure everything is set in position and I feel comfortable and I’ll come out and make that announcement.”
The loss of the explosive 28-year-old, who made his name in rugby league, would be a blow for Australia’s hopes of winning a third World Cup, four years after reaching the final in England.
It would also be a huge setback for governing body Rugby Australia, which has worked hard to retain its highest profile player in the 15-man code since 2013.
Folau started his stellar sporting career in Australia’s National Rugby League as a 17-year-old for Melbourne Storm and became the country’s youngest international in the 13-man game at 18 when he debuted for the Kangaroos in the same year.
His comments are likely to fan speculation that he is set for a return to NRL but the Wallabies back would also generate huge interest from cashed-up rugby union clubs in Europe and Japan.
The 62-test back told local media last year that he missed playing in the NRL’s annual ‘State of Origin’ series between Queensland and New South Wales and that a return to league was a case of ‘never say never’.
Folau scored 12 tries for the Wallabies last year despite being rested for the season-ending tour of the northern hemisphere and was awarded an unprecedented third John Eales medal as the country’s top rugby union player.
The New South Wales Waratah said he was looking to improve on his stellar 2017.
“I feel really good. Physically, my body’s in good shape and I feel good and I feel mentally good as well,” he said ahead of the Waratahs’ Super Rugby clash against the Melbourne Rebels on Sunday.
“I just feel like I’m happy with parts of my game but certainly I’m never satisfied fully. I’m always wanting to get better.”
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by John O'Brien