Israel Folau and Sonny Bill Williams are ‘instinctive players’, says Barrie McDermott

Israel Folau and Sonny Bill Williams are “instinctive rugby league players” who are beginning to find their feet, according to Barrie McDermott.

The signings of the former rugby union duo, Folau for Catalans Dragons and Williams for Toronto Wolf Pack, caused a stir in Super League for very contrasting reasons.

But Sky Sports pundit McDermott believes the pair are starting to develop chemistry with their respective clubs and reassert themselves in the 13-a-side game after extended periods away as dual-code players.

“He (Folau) is an instinctive rugby league player,” McDermott told Sky Sports News.

“What you’ll find is people like Sonny Bill Williams at Toronto, although they’ve had some time away they’ve just got to remember that muscle memory of running with a rugby ball.

“It will take some time to re-program that but from his (Folau’s) perspective it is a lot of the communication that his team-mates will give him. Sonny Bill Williams will be the same.

“Sonny Bill Williams is leading the league’s offload charts so he’s a quality player.

“It’s not just about what he can bring to the side it’s the people around him understanding what Israel Folau and Sonny Bill Williams can bring to their respective teams.”~

Folau, who was widely denounced and subsequently sacked by Rugby Australia for anti-LGBT+ comments, scored a try on his Catalans debut against Castleford last time out.

After a week off that McDermott feels would have benefited Folau’s acclimatisation, next up is a trip to Hull FC in his first away outing in Super League which will provide another stern test.

“It’s a hostile environment at the best of times so all he can do is focus on what he’s good at – playing rugby league, getting to know his team-mates, his team-mates getting to know him a little bit,” McDermott said.

“The position that he plays he’s got to have the understanding of the people inside and outside him, so he’ll have benefited from the extra time on the training field.”

As for Williams, the added publicity that his signing has generated – coupled with the emergence of Toronto into Super League – will do wonders for the sport, according to McDermott.

His superstar status is perhaps best illustrated by scenes of fans lining up for photographs with the former New Zealand international and McDermott thinks this can only be seen as a positive.

McDermott said: “He’s the real deal, Sonny Bill Williams.

“What you’re finding is he enters an arena, a stadium and everybody wants a photograph with him.

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