Folau remains Cheika's first-choice full-back

Israel Folau has not been operating at the peak of his powers for Waratahs, but Michael Cheika has backed the explosive back.

Michael Cheika said Israel Folau will still be Australia's first-choice full-back this season and feels he is paying the price for his versatility.

Folau was employed at outside centre in the first seven Super Rugby rounds this year before taking the Waratahs' number 15 shirt again, but moved back when Rob Horne picked up a hamstring injury.

The 28-year-old has not been at his explosive best for the Tahs, but Cheika has given his backing to the Wallabies flyer.

"Folau's the pick there for me at this stage," said the Australia head coach.

"He's got quality and I've coached him a lot since he's been in rugby and I think that's where he's at his best when the space is there to run free.

"I understand why the Tahs need to play him at 13, it's not like he can't switch back out.

"Footy is footy he's got a few defensive things he's got to deal with, which I think he's dealt with very well, that's a challenging position to defend in and he's done that very well."

Cheika added: "He hasn't got himself as much ball as he would've liked this year, for sure, but you can see he's trying to really do the job for the team and he's had to move back and forth.

"I think the Tahs would've liked to keep him at full-back, but then they had a few injuries so they were forced to bring him back up that game.

"I think he's working really hard for his team."

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