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Israel Folau offered potential route back to Test rugby by Tonga: 'We’d love to have him'

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 13/06/2019 Simon Collings
Israel Folau wearing a yellow shirt © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited

Israel Folau has been offered the chance to resurrect his international rugby career with Tonga at the 2023 World Cup.

The full-back had his contract terminated by Rugby Australia last month after a high-level code of conduct breach following an Instagram post he made on April 10 in which he said “hell awaits” homosexuals.

Folau, who has played 73 Tests for Australia, is now fighting his sacking in court and has filed a case with the country’s Fair Workplace Commission claiming his employment was unlawfully terminated.

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However, while the 30-year-old continues his legal battle, he has been offered the chance to switch allegiances to Tonga in time for the 2023 World Cup.

Folau is of Tongan heritage and could play for them if he sits out international rugby for three years and seeks to qualify for the Pacific Island nation’s Olympic sevens programme.

Tonga coach Toutai Kefu, who is a former Wallaby himself, is on board with the idea and would like to have Folau as part of his squad.

(Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images) © Getty (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

“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.

“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.”

(Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images) © Getty (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

While Folau would have to wait until 2023 to play for Tonga at a World Cup his younger brother, John, is eligible to play in this year’s edition.

And Kefu added: “He definitely qualifies because he’s got a Tongan passport.

“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.”

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