Disgraced rugby star Israel Folau’s grand unveiling quietly cancelled by Catalans Dragons
A planned grand unveiling for rugby star Israel Folau has been shelved by his new team after his signing attracted widespread anger.
The France-based Catalans Dragons announced it had signed Folau last week, less than a year after he was sacked from the New South Wales Waratahs and Australia’s national team for claiming that “hell awaits” gay people.
The hire has generated anger from within the primarily UK-based Super League in which Folau will compete, with opponents signalling their objections to Folau’s presence.
No fanfare as Israel Folau quietly arrives in France
The player arrived in France on Sunday to begin training with the club, but plans for a grand unveiling to the press have reportedly been shelved.
Dragons spokesman Yannick Rey confirmed to AFP: “He arrived Sunday, we didn’t want to shout it from the rooftops, so he could arrive in peace.
“We want him to train in complete serenity so that he can play as quickly as possible.”
The player’s first appearance with the club will now be in a video posted to social media – keeping him far away from the flood of media questions that a formal photo op or press conference would likely generate.
Folau has been introduced to his teammates and is now undergoing medicals before preliminary training.
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Disgraced rugby star could play first match this weekend.
If cleared, his first match could be as soon as Sunday, February 9, when the team is scheduled to play against Wakefield at the Mobile Rocket Stadium.
Rey added: “He faces a battery of medical tests which will tell us some more about the date he’ll be able to play. If he’s passed fit to play Sunday, he’ll play Sunday.”
The Catalans have defended the signing of Folau, who received an undisclosed settlement from Rugby Australia in December after claiming he had been discriminated against on the basis of religion.
Club chairman Bernard Guasch said the Catalans “want to give Israel a new opportunity to shine on the pitch”, telling L’Independant that the signing was “perhaps the biggest coup in the history of this sport”.
He said: “We will then savour the exemplary player he is. I know he will delight the Catalan public.
“We do not share or tolerate his opinions and we are totally committed to making our club and our sport open and welcoming to everyone.”
Far from backing away from his anti-LGBT+ beliefs, Folau has repeatedly reasserted them in recent weeks – blaming the devil for transgender children and claiming that bushfires devastating Australia are “God’s judgment” for same-sex marriage.