By New Zealand Herald
Israel Folau has taken the first step in his sporting comeback, with it confirmed that he will play rugby league for Tonga next month.
Tongan National Rugby League chairman George Koloamatangi announced that Folau, and brother John, will pull on the red of Tonga in the Oceania Cup.
Folau’s multimillion-dollar contract with Rugby Australia was terminated in May over a social media post in which he paraphrased a Bible passage, saying “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters” would go to hell unless they repented.
Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle terminated the Folau’s multi-million dollar contract, on the advice of an independent panel, for “high level” breaches of the player’s code of conduct.
Mind blown ?
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) September 23, 2019
Folau is currently in the midst of a legal battle over that decision, but will play rugby league in the meantime, with Mate Ma’a Tonga set to play Great Britain in Hamilton on October 26, before meeting Australia at Eden Park on November 2.
Folau said that he was excited about returning to rugby league.
“I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to represent God, my family, my heritage and the people of Tonga,” he said. “I am thankful that the RLIF have accepted my availability to play.
“I don’t want to bring any of my personal matters into this and I am grateful that the IRLF have endorsed my availability.
“What I will do now is focus on playing great rugby league and do my talking on the field.”
Folau has registered to play league through the TNRL and is eligible to play in international rugby league fixtures, but won’t play in the NRL’s International 9’s after the NRL didn’t accept his selection for the tournament.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 23, 2019
Tongan coach Frank Endacott said he was thrilled at having the Folau brothers in his squad.
“This is great news”, said Endacott. “These guys are great footballers and bring size, pace and skill to the team. They will make a huge impact in the team and provide exciting attack options all over the park.”
“This will be great boost to the internationals, and I cant wait to see the crowd support that this will generate from our famous Mate Ma’a Tonga supporters,” Endacott added.
“And it is good to see the RLIF approving these players for internationals. This is great for the game.”
This article first appeared on nzherald.co.nz and was republished with permission.
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