Unsung five-eighth Bernard Foley is being lauded for bringing a new dimension to the Wallabies as they eye an historic clean sweep of the French on Saturday.
A surprise selection as Australia’s chief playmaker ahead of NSW Waratahs teammate Kurtley Beale, Foley has carried his excellent Super Rugby form into the Test arena to have the Wallabies poised to humble Les Bleus 3-0 for the first time.
Foley readily admits he doesn’t boast the sublime long passing game of his predecessor, the injured Quade Cooper, but the former Australian sevens star’s probing runs more than compensate.
While it was a second-half penalty goal off his boot that helped seal the Wallabies’ dour 6-0 win over France last Saturday, Foley’s probing runs helped create seven tries for his outside backs in Australia’s series-opening 50-point rout.
Usually the five-eighth for the Brumbies, Wallabies inside centre Matt Toomua says it’s a treat playing immediately outside Foley.
“With Bernard carrying, after a while they’ll start to suck in and that’s why you see guys scoring out wide a lot,” Toomua said on Thursday.
“It’s a flow-on effect. It’s great that you have a five-eighth who is a threat at the line.
“It only helps your outside backs later on in the game when things start to tighten up.
“Bernard plays very flat, which is really conducive to how we want to play in terms of punching and getting over the advantage line.”
Wallabies No.9 Nic White has also relished playing inside Foley and hopes the two can develop into Australia’s long-term halves pairing.
Foley, though, is not getting ahead of himself and says having a player of Beale’s calibre on the bench keeps him on his toes.
“He’s such a well-esteemed player and he’s achieved so much at this level as well,” Foley said.
“I’m sure he’s the same as us; everyone is fighting for a starting position and you don’t always want to be that impact player off the bench.
“We’ve got to be on our toes. We can’t be complacent. He’s a game changer.”
Chuffed that coach Ewen McKenzie has retained him at five-eighth for the entire series with Les Bleus, Foley would love to keep the role for Australia’s Bledisloe Cup opener with New Zealand on August 16.
But the 24-year-old is realistic enough to know he’s only ever one Test away from losing his spot.
“Ewen’s always said that incumbency doesn’t really count for too much,” Foley said.
“The Bledisloe is still six or seven weeks away. There’s still a lot of Super Rugby to be played and I’m sure all the coaches will be watching that and they’ll be selecting that side on form.”