Israel Folau offers lifeline with Tonga rugby

Ko 'ene tu'u he taimi ni ngali na'a 'i ai 'a e faingamalie 'o Folau ke va'inga ia ma'a Tonga .

( Israel Folau may still have a future in rugby even if he loses his legal battle with Rugby Australia.

It has emerged that Tonga coach and former Wallaby Toutai Kefu has broached the notion of Folau joining the island nation for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France, after his brother John does so this year in Japan.

The ex-Wallabies No. 8 said that contact has been made with Folau about playing for Tonga following the dual international’s sacking by Rugby Australia for breaching his contract.

“We’d love to have him — the next World Cup he’d be available for us hopefully.” Kefu told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“It’s a long time away, so we’ll let the dust settle a bit after his most recent issues.

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“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.

“He’d have to sit out three years and then even after that we’d have to re-qualify him through a sevens Olympic qualifying tournament.”

Given Folau has already represented Australia, he cannot switch immediately and play for another country. However, once he sits out three years he could then qualify for Tonga by playing in a sevens tournament that doubles as an Olympic qualifying event.

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Meanwhile, Folau’s brother John is in line to qualify for Tonga at this year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan, after parting ways with the Waratahs following his sibling’s sacking.

The plan is for John Folau to feature at the Pacific Nations Cup, which begins next month, with Tonga facing Samoa, Japan and Canada.

“He’s definitely on our radar and we’ve already spoken to him,” Kefu said.

“I’ve actually never seen him play but I’ve got a playing history of him.

“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.

“You look at what he has done; he’s played in the NRL for a couple of years and he’s been on the fringe of Super Rugby for a couple of years. He definitely qualifies because he’s got a Tongan passport.

“If he’s played in those competitions before he’s certainly good enough to have a trial for us and then we can see whether he is good enough to be part of that Rugby World Cup squad.”

The latest twist in Folau’s ongoing battle with Rugby Australia came at the weekend when he accused them of leaking confidential information pertaining to his Code of Conduct hearing, as the relationship between the former star and the governing body got even uglier.

Originally published as Israel Folau offered rugby lifeline


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