7:00am Saturday 30th November 2013
By Iwan Gabe Davies
ISRAEL Folau is the kind of big-time player who has attracted rave reviews in the year since converting to rugby union but Wales new boy Owen Williams isn’t one to get overawed too easily.
6ft 3in and 16st 3lb full-back Folau has been compared in the same breath as New Zealand great Sonny Bill Williams because of his league background, sheer size, athleticism and impressive off-loading ability.
The 24-year-old of Tongan descent made his name in the 13-man code, going on to represent the Kangaroos before he spent two years playing Australian rules football, switching codes again last December after joining the New South Wales Warathas.
This weekend could see Folau break Lote Tuqiri's (another former league star) calendar-year try-scoring record of ten tries with his current tally of nine in 14 matches for Australia.
But although Williams, who scored a stunning try in the 17-7 victory over Tonga last week in his first game at the Millennium Stadium, respects Folau, he believes Wales have players who are even better.
The 22-year-old centre, who will partner Scott Williams in Wales’ midfield tonight as he wins just his fourth cap, said: “Australia have got a good backline and they’ve got good forwards there, so they will really test us.”
Referring to the British and Irish Lions’ 2-1 Test series victory over the Wallabies this summer, the Cardiff Blues man added: “Israel Folau is well-known for his skills but we’ve got good players in our backline as well – Leigh Halfpenny and George North have played against them with the Lions so we can take confidence from that.
“Folau is good in the air and a good all-round player. But like I said, we’ve got good players who are as good if not better than him anyway.”
Williams, who is from Aberdare, is a fair old size himself, standing at 6ft 3in and 15st 1lb, is looking forward to tussling with some other high quality backs this evening.
“I watched Adam Ashley-Cooper for a few years and admired him and it’ll be great to play against him,” he said.
“He is an experienced player and it’ll be good to be up against him in the centre.”
For Williams, who won his first two caps on Wales’ tour of Japan, tonight’s encounter will be by far the highest profile of his career so far and he aims to thrive from the adrenaline.
“It’s definitely my biggest game to date and I have to get up to the mark,” he said. “I get a bit nervous but everyone does and nerves can be a good thing sometimes. You’ve got to go out there and enjoy it and express yourself really.”
© Copyright 2001-2014 Newsquest Media Group