The immediate playing future of star NSW Waratahs fullback Israel Folau remains unclear as the Australian Rugby Union remains in control of his availability on return from a throat injury.
After missing the Waratahs’ two games in South Africa, Folau was named to play against the Western Force on Saturday night before the ARU pulled him out fearing further damage.
Waratahs coach Michael Cheika was frustrated when told on Friday that Folau was being withdrawn and copped a bake from Folau, who was desperate to play.
Cheika went on to accuse the ARU of breaking medical protocol by ruling out the star fullback.
The ARU’s chief medical officer, Dr Warren McDonald, ruled Folau out of the clash with the Force – who won 28-16 – and is comfortable with his decision.
“The decision to rest Israel Folau from last night’s game was based on specialist medical opinion and a number of conversations involving NSW Waratahs, Wallabies and external specialists before I made the final decision,” Dr McDonald said.
“The decision-making process takes into account all factors around an injury, including the risk of re-injury, further serious complications and permanent damage. We continue to be comfortable with our decision, which was centred on player welfare.
“Israel will be reviewed by further specialists in coming days and decisions will be made after those appointments about the next steps in his management.”
ARU chief executive Bill Pulver admits the situation was hindered somewhat by the Waratahs being in South Africa for two weeks and then spending the week in Perth, but backs in his medical staff.
“It’s understandable that Israel Folau was disappointed to be ruled out of Saturday night’s match against Western Force based on advice from medical specialists but coaches and players are not qualified to make medical decisions despite their eagerness to play,” Pulver said.
“We’re keen to see Israel return to play as soon as possible once our medical team is satisfied that the risk to him has subsided.
“There has been regular communication between the ARU and Waratahs about this matter, and as we would normally do, we have channelled communication through the NSW Waratahs doctor.
“The process has been slightly complicated in this case due to the Waratahs being on the road, but we look forward to working with the NSW Waratahs in a co-operative and constructive way to continue to manage Israel’s injury.”
Cheika, meanwhile, doesn’t need any more headaches that may arise from his criticism of the ARU already facing a disciplinary hearing this Wednesday over a clash with a television cameraman in Cape Town during the Waratahs win over the Stormers last week.