Catalans Dragons have shot down reports that dual-code Australian international Israel Folau has turned his back on the club and could be leaving the Super League.
The 31-year-old returned home at the end of last season with his wife and new-born baby and has yet to report back to the French club.
That, in turn, prompted speculation that the former Wallaby will not honour his contract, which he extended to the end of 2021 last July.
But Dragons coach Steve McNamara told the PA news agency he has kept in regular dialogue with Folau, who remains committed to the club but needs to remain in Australia for personal reasons as well as restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“He’s got a family situation and we’re working together on that,” McNamara said.
“We’re constantly speaking, we’re monitoring the situation as best we can.”
In a statement, the Dragons said: “The club and Israel Folau have been in constant dialogue since Christmas regarding a personal family situation.
“This, along with Covid restrictions, are currently preventing his return to France.”
The centre initially joined the Catalans on a 12-month deal, despite opposition from both Super League and a majority of clubs who were concerned over views he had expressed on subjects like homophobia.
Folau’s contract with Rugby Australia was terminated in 2019 after he said “hell awaits” gay people in a social media post. He subsequently took legal action and reached a settlement.
He was thrown a lifeline by the Dragons and, after scoring on his Super League debut last February, played a key role as they reached the play-off semi-finals.
The Catalans players have yet to report back for training after the schedule was put on hold due to heightened COVID-19 restrictions.
– Ian Laybourn
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