Ben Te'o during an England rugby union team training session.
Ben Te'o during an England rugby union team training session. DAVE HUNT

Te'o credits Folau for encouraging his code switch

RUGBY UNION: Ben Te'o can thank former flatmate and Wallabies star Israel Folau for giving him the belief to make a successful switch from league to union.

Even if it meant the former Brisbane Bronco and Queensland Origin representative playing for England.

Given the nod by coach Eddie Jones, the 29-year-old made his union Test debut off the bench in the weekend's 37-21 victory over South Africa.

He is now poised to win a second cap when England hosts Fiji at Twickenham this weekend in the second of four autumn internationals.

Born in Auckland but having moving to Australia when he was 17, Te'o grew up playing both rugby codes.

However, he first made a name for himself in league, debuting with Wests Tigers in the NRL in 2007 before playing 75 games with the Broncos and 40 with South Sydney - as well as eight with Queensland.

A former teammate at the Broncos, Folau had already made the switch when they shared a house together for five months in Sydney.

"We were living in Kensington. I was at Souths and he was at Waratahs,” Te'o recalled.

"I was feeling a little bit stale and asking myself some questions and I bounced it off him a little bit.

"I said 'I'm 27, do you think it's too late?'. He said 'No, no it's not too late'. I asked if he thought that I would be all right or is it too hard? He said 'No I think that you can do it'. He's someone that gave me a lot of confidence to give it a go.”

Moving to Ireland in 2014 to join Leinster, Te'o was later enticed to the Worcester Wolves in England by Jones, who was keen to get him into his national squad.

"With my mum being British I always knew I had this passport. When the opportunity came to give this environment a go it was something I really wanted to do. I feel like I'm on a second career,” he said, adding he hoped his mum would make the trip to England soon to watch him in action.

"Hopefully she'll get over at some stage to watch me. I know she's proud and I'm proud of myself as well. It is an achievement for me just to be here,” he said.


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