AAP Rugby

Cheika happy with Folau despite blunder

By AAP Newswire

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has lauded Israel Folau's performance on the wing despite his last-gasp blunder that cost them victory against Argentina.

For the first time in five years, Folau started a Test match somewhere other than his usual position of fullback.

It was a move designed to increase Folau's involvement in the match and, for the most part, it worked brilliantly.

Cheika deployed the 29-year-old in a hybrid role, rotating him through the middle, out wide and occasionally at the back to keep Los Pumas guessing.

Folau finished with more runs (13) and more metres gained (127) than any other Australian player.

"We had a strategy to move him around a fair bit like that, both in attack and defence, and I think it went quite well," Cheika said.

"I thought he had a lot of touches and he played well with the touches that he had."

Folau scored a stunning 19th-minute try, stepping past four Argentinian defenders in a scintillating reminder of how good he is at his best.

But it was his inexplicable decision not to pass to an unmarked Bernard Foley on the siren that will be remembered.

Folau had the ball in hand and was at a proverbial fork in the road.

He could have dished out to his right, where Foley was completely open and looked certain to score in the corner.

Or, he could have kept the ball and sought the glory of the matchwinner for himself.

Folau chose the second option but butchered it completely, spilling the ball in a tackle and ending the Wallabies' chances of victory in the process.

Cheika said he hadn't spoken to Folau specifically about that moment and was reluctant to pin all the blame for the 23-19 result on him.

"I think that to put everything into the last play of the game is a bit naive for us," he said.

"Yes, you could have maybe got the win but you shouldn't be in that situation in the first place with the amount of opportunities we had beforehand and the amount of times we've let those opportunities go.

"It should have been well and truly finished before then.

"I still would have taken winning, mind you, don't get me wrong.

"But if you're fair dinkum you don't want to be letting that cover up other issues."