Alan Tait believes Israel Folau has proven wrong the doubters who said the rugby league convert could not hack it in union.
The former rugby league and Australian rules football star has shone for the Wallabies against the British and Irish Lions in only his first season in the 15-man code, a transition Tait himself made during a glittering playing career.
The dual-code Lion said: “Australia are dabbling again in rugby league, as they have done down the years with guys like Wendell Sailor and Lote Tuqiri, among others. This time round it is Israel Folau out on the wing, and it did make me laugh when people came out knocking the lad and saying he wasn’t ready.
“What people have to realise is that international rugby is an athlete’s game nowadays, and even though there is less space on the field for him, the Wallabies played to his strengths.
“That was especially true in the first Test, where they just got the ball to him and said, ‘Let’s see what you can do with it’.”
A 1997 series winner in South Africa with the British and Irish Lions, Tait added: “Folau is a fantastic athlete, and I feel good when a boy comes in from rugby league and shows people what he can do.
“It is not about playing a particular code, it is about having the mental approach to show how good an athlete you are.”
A Premiership title winner with Newcastle Falcons and later their head coach, Tait said ahead of Saturday’s series decider in Sydney: “I am a huge admirer of Australia, probably because of my rugby league background.
“My childhood heroes were guys like Mal Meninga, and they just have that X-factor about them.
“Everybody knew they were going to struggle up front, but they are used to that. They keep digging guys up to come in and take the mantle.”