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Disgraced Israel Folau poised to rekindle his career by playing for Tonga at next year’s Rugby League World Cup

Emma Powys Maurice April 11, 2020
Israel Folau

Israel Folau speaking to the media after reaching a settlement with Rugby Australia (Mark Metcalfe/Getty)

Disgraced rugby player Israel Folau could return to the international arena by playing for Tonga at next year’s Rugby League World Cup.

The former Wallabies player was plunged into controversy last year when Rugby Australia sacked him for writing on social media that “hell awaits” gay people.

Folau refused to back down from his bigoted views and filed a wrongful dismissal lawsuit against his former employer, which ended with him receiving an undisclosed settlement and an apology.

In January he signed a new deal to play for France-based Catalans Dragons, but it’s now looking like he could return to the world stage after Kristian Woolf, the head of the Tongan national rugby team, reached out with an offer.

Tonga confirm Israel Folau offer.

Tongan team spokesperson John Hopoate confirmed: “The coach has made contact with him and let him know that if he’s playing good enough he will be in our team.”

He also claimed the International Rugby League are ready to back the move, having agreed that “he’s allowed to play”.

“He’s not going to walk straight into the team, these guys who have stuck strong by us in the last couple of years will get first opportunity,” Hopoate added.

“If someone gets injured, or if Israel’s playing too good where we had to pick him, then yes he’s going to get picked. We’re not going to say no to him.”

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 21: Israel Folau of the Wallabies is tackled by Ryan Crotty of the All Blacks during the Bledisloe Cup match between the Australian Wallabies and the New Zealand All Blacks at Suncorp Stadium on October 21, 2017 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)
Israel Folau on the pitch (Getty)

International Rugby League meeting to discuss Folau’s return.

According to Fox Sports, the International Rugby League (IRL) have yet to agree on Folau’s return and the board are planning to gather later today to discuss the matter.

“It’s a real situation the IRL need to answer,” IRL deputy chair Troy Grant said regarding Folau’s pending return for Tonga.

“That’s an issue that we’ll be discussing at (Thursday) night’s board meeting. We’ve sought the appropriate advice. Obviously he’s playing in the super league with Catalans and there was some issues in relation to that.

“We’re going through a due process and due diligence before we would make a decision on that. That would only occur after full board consideration.”

Folau has Tongan heritage but played for Australia 62 times before his career came to a halt, causing him to miss last year’s union World Cup in Japan.

If he is permitted to play for Tonga he could end up competing directly against the team that sacked him in the knockout stages of the Rugby League World Cup.

More: israel folau, Rugby, Rugby Australia, Rugby League World Cup, Tonga

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