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Israel Folau named for rugby union return after extended absence

By Tom Vinicombe
Israel Folau (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

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Over 1,000 days since Israel Folau last played a professional match of rugby union, the former Wallabies fullback will make his return to the field on Saturday in the opening round of Japan’s new competition, League One.

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Folau’s contract was infamously terminated with Rugby Australia after the 32-year-old posted what many considered homophobic remarks on social media. After just six weeks of Super Rugby action for the 2019 season, Folau found himself without a contract and subsequently ended up playing for French rugby league side Catalans Dragons.

The former NRL star intended to return to the competition where he first made a name for himself but found his recruitment blocked and subsequently signed for the Shining Arcs ahead of the 2022 League One season.

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With the competition – a replacement for the Top League – kicking off this weekend, Folau has been named to start in the No 15 jersey for the Shining Arcs as they line up to take on heavyweights Kobe Steelers.

Folau won’t be the only new recruit amongst the Shining Arcs’ midsts, however, with champion Blues flyhalf Otere Black also named for his maiden appearance. Liam Gill will also run out in the No 8 jersey, having shifted to the club last season.

Former Scotland halfback Greg Laidlaw is also on the books but won’t feature against the Eagles – who bested the Shining Arcs in last year’s playoffs, scoring an emphatic 43-13 win.

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Rob Penney’s Shining Arcs finished fourth in last year’s Red Conference, before eventually succumbing to the Eagles in the Round of 16, and will be looking to set an early marker this season after the key recruitments of Folau and Black.

Shining Arcs: Israel Folau, Kai Ishii, Shane Gates (c), Tone Tukufuka, Kazushi Hano, Otere Black, Atsushi Yumoto, Liam Gill, Shokei Kin, James Moore, Jimmy Tupou, Shingo Nakajima, Shotaro Hirai, Miura Rin, Anoku Shota. Reserves: Ryushi Fujimura, Ken Saito, Shuhei Takeuchi, Sam Jeffries, Alex MacKenzie, Ryo Tsuruda, Taji Hongo, Brackin Henry.

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