Full-back confident the Australians can be more competitive against the world champions, starting with Saturday's opener
Israel Folau: Australia can take the fight to New Zealand in the Rugby Championship
Australia are beginning to reach their true potential, star full-back Israel Folau said Tuesday, vowing to unleash his aerial prowess against New Zealand in the Rugby Championship this year.
Folau received a one-match ban after his last international outing when he sent Ireland skipper Peter O'Mahony sprawling in a clash for the high ball during their contentious final Test.
Despite the incident, the 29-year-old said he would not hold back in Sydney on Saturday against the New Zealanders, who possess their own potent aerial weapon in Jordie Barrett.
"I believe my technique is fair play and I'll attack the ball at every opportunity I get to try to win possession for the team," he told reporters ahead of Saturday's opening match of the tournament at ANZ Stadium. "That mindset won't change."
Folau, who dismissed speculation he would play in the centres rather than at full-back, believed Australia were closing the gap on the back-to-back world champions and can challenge the defending champions, who have also won the past two Rugby World Cups, more strongly this autumn.
He said Saturday's match, which doubles as the first fixture of the three-Test Bledisloe Cup, was a chance to build on Australia's 23-18 win the last time the two sides met in Brisbane last October.
"Last year we really built a good foundation within our team, we came so close in the second game and managed to get the win in the third one," he said. "It was a good finish, but was a just a taste of the potential the team can fulfil."
Utility back Matt Toomua said Australia wanted to make amends for the heavy losses suffered in the past two matches against the All Blacks in Sydney - going down 42-8 in 2016 and 54-34 last year.
"We owe the Sydney crowd something," he said. "Unfortunately we haven't done well here in a little while, so it's time to give them something to cheer about."
Toomua is back with the Australians after a two-year absence and said he had learned a lot playing in England for Leicester Tigers, where he will stay until mid-2019.
"There's a lot more problem solving as a playmaker," he said. "I think that's quite good mentally, to find ways to win against different teams and different styles of play."