Israel Folau says he will be playing fullback – nowhere else – in Saturday night’s Bledisloe Cup opener against the All Blacks.
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And the defiant Wallabies superstar is also vowing to attack the high ball with his customary vigour despite copping a contentious one-match ban earlier this year for a clumsy aerial challenge on Ireland captain Peter O’Mahony.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika won’t name his starting side until Thursday and has gone to great lengths to keep his side under wraps, but Folau all but revealed he’d be wearing the No.15 jumper in the series opener at ANZ Stadium.

“Well, I’ve been training at fullback. I haven’t been training anywhere else so hopefully, yeah,” ‘s attacking trump said before Cheika ushered TV cameras and media out of Tuesday’s full team session in Sydney.

“But whatever decisions that ‘Cheik’ makes, it’s best for the team, but I don’t see myself playing any other position other than 15.”

Nor does Folau plan to tone down his aggressive aerial approach after receiving a one-game suspension for making mid-air contact with O’Mahoney during ‘s last Test match, a series-deciding 20-16 loss to Ireland in June.

“I won’t modify anything,” Folau said.

“After the incident in June, going back to Super rugby, I approached the game the same way as any other game.

“For me, it doesn’t change anything. Going into the weekend, I’ll have the same mindset in attacking the ball in the air and obviously making good decisions around that.”

Despite failing on appeal to have his ban overturned and believing the laws around aerial challenges remain too grey, Folau insists he will have “absolutely” no apprehension in employing his deadly leap against the world champions.

“I believe my technique is fair play. I’ll attack the ball at every opportunity I get to try and win possession for the team,” said the code-hopping ace.

“So that mindset won’t change.”

While he’s expected to re-sign until at least after the 2019 Rugby World Cup, Folau is off contract at the end of the year, meaning his sixth Bledisloe Cup series could be his last crack at helping the Wallabies regain trans-Tasman bragging rights.

The 29-year-old is making no secret of his burning desire to add the prized piece of silverware to his 2013 Super Rugby triumph with NSW, an NRL grand final victory with Melbourne in 2007 and three straight State of Origin series wins with Queensland from 2008.

“It’s not rocket science that you definitely want to win it,” Folau said.

“Off the back of last year, I thought we built a really good foundation within our team internally.

“We came so close in the second game and we managed to get the win in the third one, which was a good finish.

“But I think that was just a good taste of the potential that the team can fulfil.”

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Dylan Napa (left) is ready to step up in the absence of Jared Waerea-Hargreaves for the Roosters.Sydney Roosters enforcer Dylan Napa has declared himself ready to reclaim his role as forward pack leader in the absence of Jared Waerea-Hargreaves for the next month.
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Waerea-Hargreaves was on Monday ruled out for up to the opening week of the NRL finals after breaking his ribs in Friday’s win over South Sydney.

His sideline stint is a whack for a Roosters side that has just claimed top spot on the ladder for the first time this year with just three games remaining.

“It’s really tough to lose him but there’s been plenty of games where we’ve played without Jared,” Napa told AAP on Tuesday.

“Our entire Roosters squad have been pushing for spots all year. So while we might be a man down, but it’s next man up.”

And Napa could be just that man, having only returned from injury himself.

The Roosters prop hasn’t played more than 28 minutes off the bench since coming back from a knee injury two weeks ago.

The ladder leaders will need Napa to quickly find his form as they look to replace Waerea-Hargreaves’ high-volume workrate.

The New Zealand international, who had only missed one game so far this year, is averaging 114m and 23 tackles in 46 minutes per game.

He also leads the Roosters forwards in offloads.

Napa’s opening comes after hurting his knee in their round 16 loss to Melbourne that also ruled him out of appearing for Queensland in State of Origin III.

“It was tough to cop, but I’m not the first person to miss an Origin game with injury,” he said.

“It was a little hard to get my running back, but I’m good now. I feel like I’ve been training really well, so we’ll see what happens on the weekend.”

The Roosters are also still without five-eighth Luke Keary, with Ryan Matterson filling in alongside Cooper Cronk in the halves in his absence.

A win against Canberra on Sunday will leave the Roosters in prime position to claim their fourth minor premiership in the past six years.

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A struggling man was held down on a bed and cut with a small blade during an exorcism after his relatives believed he had been a victim of black magic, a Sydney jury has been told.
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The man, who cannot be identified, said they believed the black magic had been performed on him by his in-laws to convince him to move out of his mother’s home with his wife.

The Islamic follower denied consenting to the procedure which involved Hijama, or the use of suction cups to draw blood and incisions made with a blade.

Giving evidence on Tuesday in the NSW District Court, he said when he asked Riza Morinaj what he was doing he was told “I am drawing out the evil” and that the Koran would be recited.

Morinaj, a 39-year-old spiritual healer, has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping in company with the intention of gaining an advantage occasioning actual bodily harm, and to assault occasioning actual bodily harm in company at a Sydney house in November 2016.

The husband said he wed his wife in an arranged marriage and they lived with his parents for a year, before moving out after his wife felt she was being treated like a slave.

While she respected his parents and had no problem with doing chores, she received no thanks, he said.

Under cross-examination from Morinaj’s barrister, John Selimi, the husband agreed his mother and grandparents blamed his wife’s parents for him moving out, believing they had performed black magic on him.

He himself did not believe in black magic, likening it to the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus.

In November 2016, he went to a family function where his grandfather introduced him to three men, including Morinaj, who he said were friends from the mosque.

“My grandfather said these men wanted to have a quick chat with me as to why we moved out,” he said.

He agreed he had a sneaking suspicion they wanted to try to persuade him to move back and he was prepared to play along with it so as not to offend his family.

He told prosecutor Ken Gilson he was held down on a bed upstairs during the episode which lasted about 20 minutes before police arrived.

The husband denied Mr Selimi’s suggestion that he had submitted to the Hijama because he knew his grandfather wanted him to and was going along with it to appease him.

“I was not told what was happening before, I was not told why it was happening,” he said.

He only knew about the black magic exorcism claim during the procedure, not before.

“If they did ask for my permission, I would say no.”

The trial continues before Judge Helen Syme.

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Johnathan Thurston admits he’s growing tired of his NRL farewell tour but that there’s one old foe he’d like to beat on the way out.
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Saturday’s clash with Cronulla will mark the North Queensland playmaker’s final game in Sydney, with his Cowboys currently last on the ladder.

Next week will be his Townsville swansong, before Thurston completes a 16-year career on the Gold Coast in what could be a battle for the wooden spoon against the Titans.

Thurston has appreciated the tributes from rival clubs along the way and can see the appeal of getting one last laugh over long-time foe Paul Gallen on Saturday.

But the 35-year-old admitted, with a finals campaign out of reach, his retirement sideshow had started to drag.

“It’s a little bit tiring; I’m sure you guys (the media) are all getting sick of talking about it too,” Thurston, who made his NRL debut in 2002, said on Tuesday.

“There’s a few games to go, hopefully we cause a couple of upsets … it’s been a lot more enjoyable when you’re on the right side of the scoreboard.”

Long-time teammate Gavin Cooper likened Thurston’s farewell to NBA legend Kobe Bryant’s final season at the Los Angeles Lakers two years ago.

“We’re getting farewell movies everywhere we go,” he laughed.

“The (New Zealand) Warriors are probably setting the standard with how they’re sending off retirees, then obviously we have a long history with the Broncos and I’m sure Sydney will offer something too.

“It’s probably a fitting end in Sydney, finishing at Shark Park for Johno, given our history.”

That history includes a round one encounter this year when Cooper accused the Sharks of employing dirty tactics, while the teams have knocked each other out of four of the last five finals campaigns.

Thurston has also enjoyed a long period of State of Origin dominance over Sharks veteran Gallen, who at 37 is yet to decide if he will join the Cowboys legend in retirement.

“Yeah, there’s a good rivalry between the two clubs; both have forward packs that like to come after each other and as a half you like to sit back and watch that,” Thurston said.

“It’d be nice to get one more over the Sharkies, but I know it’s not going to be easy.”

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John Hopoate will learn the length of his rugby league ban on Thursday.Rugby league bad boy John Hopoate is set to learn the length of his ban on Thursday following charges stemming from a fight in a Manly A-Grade fixture last month.
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Hopoate will front the NSW Rugby League judiciary on Wednesday night having already pleaded guilty to three counts of contrary conduct while filling in for the Narraweena Hawks on July 21.

The length of his suspension will be announced on Thursday morning, with a one-year ban likely.

The charges include one count of contrary conduct for offensive language and another for acting with aggression, after the former Manly and Wests Tigers star was already given a four-match ban for striking.

Any suspension would extend across all involvement in the sport and would therefore prohibit him from acting as a coach or trainer at any junior or senior rugby league match.

A life ban is not expected.

Hopoate, now aged 44, lasted just minutes in his first game of the season for the Hawks when he filled in off the bench against the Forestville Ferrets.

After he was initially penalised for a high tackle, a fight ensured on the following play-the-ball after the Ferrets kicked for touch.

Hopoate was sent off as a result for landing a punch, before footage emerged of him threatening the opposition lock in an expletive-laced tirade.

The opposing player was also sin-binned for his role in the incident, which including throwing the ball at Hawks players.

Hopoate played for NSW and in his 209-game NRL career, but also spent a record 45 weeks on the sideline suspended.

His most famous indiscretion came when he was banned for 12 matches for poking opponents’ backsides while at the Tigers in 2001, while his NRL career was ended with a 17-game ban for a dangerous high hit on Cronulla’s Keith Galloway while at Manly in 2006.

Those incidents won’t play any part in this week’s suspension, but he has a prior record in the Manly A-Grade competition which includes being marched for throwing a punch while playing for Manly Cove in 2011.

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