Rugby - Folau inspired by Robinson ahead of Lions tour

Code-hopping full-back Israel Folau thinks that as a relatively unknown quantity in rugby union he might be able to catch the British and Irish Lions on the hop if he gets the chance to pull on a Wallabies shirt in a Test match.

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Rugby - Folau inspired by Robinson ahead of Lions tour
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Jason Robinson from the British Lions (R) breaks free of an Australian tackle to score the first try of the rugby union test at the Gabba ground in Brisbane (AFP)

The former rugby league international was named in Australia's 25-man preliminary squad for the three-Test series on Sunday after only 12 matches for the New South Wales Waratahs since a stint in Australian rules.

Folau's forays in Australia's two favourite football codes make him probably the best-known player in the squad among his compatriots.

But 24-year-old is such a newcomer to union that he described his selection as "surreal", even if he thinks his relative anonymity might help him emulate another league convert - Jason Robinson.

The lightning quick English winger made a huge impression in the first Test of the 2001 series in Brisbane when he left Wallabies full-back Chris Latham for dead to score the first try in a celebrated Lions victory.

"I'm very confident in my own ability but I'm not guaranteed to get a starting spot so I'm just happy to be named in the 25-man squad," Folau told the Sportal website on Monday.

"I haven't seen much of the previous series, obviously, and with their current players now, me personally I don't know too many of their players.

"I guess I'm still new to knowing all the faces of the game but that might be a thing that could work in my favour.

"You've probably seen when Jason Robinson made the transition from league, he did a great job," he added to Fox Sports.

Robinson went on to have a highly successful 10-year career but Folau has yet to decide whether to remain in union or take up one of the lucrative offers on the table from Australian rugby league clubs.

"It's going to be a big part in the decision that I make," he said of the Lions series.

"It just comes down to what I enjoy the most and at the moment I'm really enjoying it and I get the chance to go into camp and experience this whole campaign and it's certainly going to come into consideration when I make my decision."

While former Springbok coach Jake White had suggested his selection for the series before he had committed to the sport long term would devalue the Australia jersey, his former rugby league coach said the Wallabies would be mad to ignore him.

"He's wonderful under the high ball but, even taking that out of the equation, Israel is just a big, strong athlete who can run the ball, pass the ball and offload," Melbourne Storm's Craig Bellamy told the Australian newspaper.

Folau, who has Tongan heritage, has played all but one of his games for the Waratahs at full-back, scoring seven tries in the process, but Wallabies coach Robbie Dean suggested he could also get a run in his old league position on the wing.

"I feel very honoured to be a part of it and it makes it more special with this series only coming around every 12 years," Folau added.

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