Tonga of­fer sacked Fo­lau World Cup life­line

Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) - - SPORTS -

Tonga coach Toutai Kefu wants sacked Wal­laby Is­rael Fo­lau to play for the Pa­cific is­land na­tion at the 2023 World Cup and has been in touch about switch­ing al­le­giances, a re­port said yes­ter­day. The de­voutly Chris­tian full­back was fired by Rugby Aus­tralia last month for post­ing ho­mo­pho­bic com­ments on so­cial me­dia in a case that sparked de­bate about re­li­gious ex­pres­sion.

Fo­lau, who is of Ton­gan her­itage, has launched le­gal ac­tion through Aus­tralia’s em­ploy­ment watch­dog the Fair Work Com­mis­sion.

The 30-year-old had been due to play a key role for the Wal­la­bies at this year’s World Cup in Ja­pan, but that dream is now over.

Given he has al­ready rep­re­sented Aus­tralia, Fo­lau can­not switch im­me­di­ately and play for an­other coun­try. But un­der a loop­hole in World Rugby reg­u­la­tions, he could ap­ply to play for Tonga’s na­tional side if he sits out three years of in­ter­na­tional rugby and then rep­re­sents Tonga at Sevens in an Olympic qual­i­fy­ing event.

Kefu, a for­mer Wal­la­bies No.8, is keen to have Fo­lau on board and while yet to speak per­son­ally with the 30-year-old, sug­gested con­tact had been made with his team.

“We’d love to have him... the next World Cup he’d be avail­able for us hope­fully,” he told the news­pa­per. “It’s a long time away, so we’ll let the dust set­tle a bit after his most recent is­sues. We don’t even know if he’s go­ing to play again.

“He hasn’t in­di­cated where he is go­ing, so we’ll wait un­til the dust set­tles and then look at those op­tions.” An­other en­tice­ment is that Fo­lau’s brother John, who was on the books of Su­per Rugby club NSW Waratahs but quit in sol­i­dar­ity with his sib­ling, is ex­pected to be named in the Tonga squad for the up­com­ing Pa­cific Na­tions Cup (PNC). This could open the door to him play­ing for the Pa­cific na­tion at the Ja­pan World Cup and be­yond.

“We’re go­ing to look at him and even may take him to the PNC be­cause we’ve got some holes in our squad, es­pe­cially out wide in the backs. There’s a good chance he will be part of that squad,” Kefu said. He added that “then we can see whether he is good enough to be part of that Rugby World Cup squad”.

John Fo­lau, who like his brother moved to rugby union from rugby league, has not played for Aus­tralia, so is el­i­gi­ble for Tonga now.

Is­rael Fo­lau

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