Israel Folau could be gearing himself up for a stunning return to rugby union – two years after being sacked by Rugby Australia.
The rangy superstar was given his marching orders from the 15-a-side code following a controversial social media post adorned with homophobia, but he could be set to switch eligibility to Tonga in a bid to represent the small Pacific Island nation at the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
If the World Rugby Council allows players to represent a second nation at a meeting on November 24, then it could almost certainly pave the way for Folau’s return.
That’s because World Rugby officials want Pacific Island nations such as Tonga and Samoa to be strengthened by being able to pick homegrown players who have debuted for other countries.
Folau came to Super League under a blaze of publicity in January 2020 and played for one season before leaving to play alongside his brothers in the Gold Coast local league back in Australia.
Tonga coach Toutai Kefu has spoken to Folau and the 32-year-old has put his name into the hat should the rules be changed in the Pacific Island nations’ favour.
“We’d definitely be interested,” Kefu told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“We’re not in a position to bypass players of Israel’s calibre. We’d welcome him with open arms.
“I’ve had conversations with him already in the last six months. I actually caught up with him just before he left to go to Japan.
“I explained to him where we were at in terms of what’s happening with this revisiting of this new eligibility rule. He totally understands it. I said, ‘If they overturned this straight away, you could be available for us next year’.
“He said, ‘Yeah, I’m keen to go’.”