If you thought you’d seen the last of Israel Folau, think again because the problematic ex-rugby player is hitting the field again. But this time, it’s against Australia in rugby league.
Folau, who was recently sacked for a homophobic Instagram post, has registered alongside his brother to play for Tonga in an upcoming international tournament.
Both brothers are eligible to play for the nation in the Oceania Cup in October and November of this year.
He’s been banned from representing Australia in rugby union, but if you thought that would stop him from finding another ball and jumping ship to our opposition, you are sorely mistaken.
“I don’t want to bring any of my personal matters into this and I am grateful that the IRLF have endorsed my availability,” Israel Folau said in a statement from the Tonga National Rugby league. “What I will do now is focus on playing great rugby league and do my talking on the field.”
George Koloamatangi, the Tongan National Rugby League Chairman, announced on Monday that both brothers will represent the nation in the Oceania Cup later this year.
The brothers are set to play in games against Australia and Great Britain during the event, which will be held in New Zealand next month. But not if Australia can help it.
Australia’s National Rugby League Association has stated that the Rugby League International Federation are going to try to protest this at an upcoming meeting.
According to the SMH, Folau’s return to the sporting field was not discussed with the federation at all before it was announced.
“The RLIF board have made no decisions in relation to any registration request for Israel Folau,” the chairman of the ARL Commission Peter Beattie said. “As a current member of the RLIF board, as the ARLC rep, I can assure you that this has never been discussed or mentioned around the board table.”
Beattie has previously said that Folau would not be permitted to play in the NRL again because he “doesn’t pass [the league’s] inclusiveness culture.”
It is unclear whether or not Folau will actually make a comeback to sport, but it looks like we’ll have to wait and see exactly how much power the Rugby League International Foundation has over Folau’s future.