Folau to skip Australia's November tour
Free-scoring fullback Israel Folau will be rested for Australia's four remaining tests this year after negotiating a break as part of his contract, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said on Sunday.
The 28-year-old Folau scored his 12th international try of the season in Australia's 23-18 victory over world champion New Zealand in Brisbane on Saturday to take his tally to 32 in 62 tests.
The former rugby league international has started every one of Australia's 10 matches this year but will now miss tests in Japan on November 4, Wales on November 12, England on November 19 and Scotland on November 26.
Folau had a provision in his contract for a stint at a Japanese club before he resumes Super Rugby next season but decided instead to take a few months off for the first time since switching to rugby union from Australian Rules in 2013.
"It's a good time for him to have some time away from the spotlight, just sit down and relax," Cheika told reporters in Brisbane on Sunday.
"He doesn't get a lot of chance to do that, he's been under the microscope every single day since he's come to rugby.
"I think it'll be a chance for him to get out of that for a moment, rest his body, rest his mind, take a well-earned breather and then get back into it from day one of Super Rugby next year."
Folau will turn out for the Wallabies in the non-cap match against the Barbarians at Sydney Football Stadium on Saturday, however, despite Cheika resting captain Michael Hooper and 12 other regular starters from his squad.
Cheika was Folau's first rugby union coach at the New South Wales Waratahs, helping his transition to the 15-man game, and he said he fully supported the player's decision.
"I respect him a lot as a player and as a person," the coach said.
"He's been really good about managing the whole situation to get the right outcome for himself and for the long run, for the team."
Folau has been a fixture in the No. 15 shirt for Australia over the last four years, his dependability meaning few others have had a look-in for the position.
Kurtley Beale, who has been playing brilliantly as a second playmaker at inside center this year, has plenty of test experience at fullback, however, and moving him would allow Cheika to give Karmichael Hunt a good run in the midfield.