Dual-code former England centre Joel Tomkins has described Wallaby outcast and now teammate Israel Folau as “absolutely unbelievable” and believes Super League club Catalan Dragons are “lucky” to have him.

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Folau had an acrimonious break-up with Rugby Australia following his controversial sacking for writing anti-gay posts on social media. A Christian, Folau argued that the termination of his contract was a case of religious discrimination. They settled out of court.

Unable to pick up a contract in union amid the fallout in Australia, Folau opted to make the switch back to league, albeit on a different continent with Catalan Dragons.

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Like Folau, Tomkins also made a switch to rugby union from league in his twenties. Unlike Folau, he returned to the thirteen man code after just three seasons. The former Saracens’ centre picked up three England caps in his time in the sport, one of which saw him come up the formidable Folau in 2013.

Speaking to Ross Heppenstall in The Telegraph, the 6’3, 103kg ex-union centre and current league second row says he has plenty of time for teammate Folau.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for Israel. On his first day at the club, he knew everyone had been reading the stories about him, but he stood up in front of the group and said, ‘I understand not everybody will agree with my views’.

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“He said he was happy to have a conversation about it with anyone and put things out on the table; he didn’t want it to affect how people viewed him as a rugby player.

“It was really impressive how he fronted up and, while people have different views, we treat him like any other team-mate.

“Purely on a rugby level he’s absolutely unbelievable; he can do things that physically 99 per cent of people in the world cannot do, so we’re lucky to have him.

“With Israel’s speed, footwork and natural ability, he’s unstoppable and the best talent I’ve played with in either code.”

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Tomkins has had to endure his own off-field issues. In 2018 he was filmed verbally abusing bar staff during a drunken night out in Wigan. He called a barmaid the ‘scrotum of Wigan’ while being asked to leave a pub in the town.

“It was an unbelievably embarrassing situation and I don’t blame anybody else but myself… I will always be ashamed and remorseful over what happened and I considered just walking away from the game at that point.”

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