Israel Folau: Tonga to impose social media restrictions before international rugby returns | Rugby Union News

Israel Folau was included in Tonga’s squad for the Pacific Nations Cup, three years after Rugby Australia sacked him for homophobic comments on social media; Tonga coach Toutai Kefu said he was confident that Folau would not cause any problems for the team.

Last update: 06/01/22 7:46 am

Israel Folau has been playing in Japan for the Shining Arcs club

Israel Folau has been playing in Japan for the Shining Arcs club

Israel Folau will be a valuable addition to Tongan rugby but will have restrictions on what he posts on social media, head coach Toutai Kefu has said.

Folau, an evangelical Christian, will soon return to international rugby, three years after he was sacked from Rugby Australia for homophobic comments he posted on social media.

Kefu, a former World Cup winner and Wallabies great, said he had yet to discuss social media with Folau but was confident the 33-year-old would not cause problems for his team in the meantime.

“That’s probably the elephant in the room,” Kefu said. “At this point in time, [trust] is what we probably have to rely on.

“But I mean, we would have some restrictions, like we always do every campaign with all the players.

I’m sure we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Folau joined Catalans Dragons in 2020 and there was controversy on his Super League debut after some Castleford fans said they were told to remove the rainbow flags.

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Folau joined Catalans Dragons in 2020 and there was controversy on his Super League debut after some Castleford fans said they were told to remove the rainbow flags.

Folau joined Catalans Dragons in 2020 and there was controversy on his Super League debut after some Castleford fans said they were told to remove the rainbow flags.

Outside-back Folau has posted just a handful of times for the more than 400,000 followers on his social media accounts since he was sacked in 2019.

While the post that got him fired remains on one of his accounts, the double-coded international has steered clear of controversy as he restarts his professional rugby career.

Folau returned to rugby league in 2020 after Catalans Dragons threw him a lifeline, despite opposition from his rival Super League clubs and the governing body.

Folau scored five tries in 15 appearances for the Catalans before returning to Australia

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Folau scored five tries in 15 appearances for the Catalans before returning to Australia

Folau scored five tries in 15 appearances for the Catalans before returning to Australia

He played in 15 of a possible 17 matches and agreed to a contract extension until the end of 2021. However, he did not return for pre-season, the Dragons allowing him to stay in Australia to attend to ‘a personal family situation’.

The Catalans have agreed to launch the double-coded international in June 2021 so that he can resume his career in Australia.

Folau, who scored 37 tries in 73 tests for the Wallabies, was included in Kefu’s squad last week for next month’s Pacific Cup of Nations, which will feature hosts Fiji, Samoa and an ‘A’ team from Australia. .

He will also be in the squad for Tonga’s 2023 World Cup play-off against an Asia-based team on July 23, which takes place on Australia’s Sunshine Coast.

Bristol's Charles Piutau (pictured) and Folau have switched allegiances to Tonga

Bristol’s Charles Piutau (pictured) and Folau have switched allegiances to Tonga

World Rugby’s decision last year to allow players to switch their international allegiance paved the way for Folau to represent Tonga, alongside former All Blacks Charles Piutau and Malakai Fekitoa.

Kefu is excited about what Folau and other experienced internationals could do for Tongan rugby, which has long struggled to retain talent in the face of more lucrative opportunities abroad.

“I have known Israel for a long time,” Kefu said. “He’s going to bring his professional mindset, he’s going to bring a skill set that we’ve never seen in our environment.

“We are going to have a good group of young players as well.

“Imagine their eyes when they are in the room with people like Piutau, Malakai and Israel.

“This is going to be a fantastic opportunity for these young people to learn.”

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