The message is that rugby needs Folau more than he needs rugby

 smh.com.au  4/17/2018 12:15:34 PM 

That he subsequently chose to air those grievances on a public platform could be perceived as him thumbing his nose at his boss. If that is the case, Castle has chosen to overlook it. She has been treading on egg-shells and is clearly keen for the whole issue to be put to bed.

There is, after all, a lot at stake and Castle has been trying to play the diplomat, treading a fine line between managing the expectations of the game's stakeholders and the feelings of its star player.

Fairfax Media understands Folau’s people had already told Castle what their client thought of her comments, which means that when the column began doing the rounds, at least its substance came as no surprise to the former Bulldogs boss, even if the fact it had been written in the first place did.

Misrepresented: Folau believes his views weren't correctly reflected by RA chief Raelene Castle's summary to the media.

Misrepresented: Folau believes his views weren't correctly reflected by RA chief Raelene Castle's summary to the media.

Photo: AAP

So what does all that say about the relationship between the code’s No.1 administrator and its No.1 influencer?

The reality is that they will soon be back at the table and the stakes will be just as high when negotiations of terms for Folau's contract resume, having stalled over the past two weeks.

While there is ample time for all parties to agree to terms, the 29-year-old, who has 62 Tests to his name, is off contract at the end of the year and, now more than ever, shapes as a player RA is desperate to sign for the 2019 World Cup.

Folau wrote in his column that he has fielded offers from the UK, other parts of Europe and Japan that far exceed anything RA could match. That is a power play ahead of those negotiations and signals how they will be conducted.

Treading softly with Folau over the past fortnight will ensure RA gets him to return the negotiating table. But it has also handed the power in those negotiations to the player and his manager, Isaac Moses, and will ensure that they push harder than they ever have before.

Higher calling: Israel Folau has made it clear his beliefs come before rugby.

Higher calling: Israel Folau has made it clear his beliefs come before rugby.

Photo: Louie Douvis

With the NRL clubs circling, Folau can afford to be obstinate because the message is that rugby needs him more than he needs rugby.

One person who has not been heard from over the past fortnight is Wallabies coach Michael Cheika. But that doesn't mean the man who brought Folau to the code has not had his say.

He will almost certainly have told Castle it is imperative that Folau does not walk away from rugby. Cheika has watched too much talent slip through his fingers over the last few years.

In simple playing terms, for him to lose Folau would be the cruellest blow of the lot.

But while RA, and the Waratahs, are still confident of keeping Folau in the 15-man code, it could be more a case of them convincing him why he should stay, rather than him convincing them why they should want him to stick around.

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