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

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

Last update: 01/06/22 07:46

Israel Folau played 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 by Rugby Australia following homophobic comments he posted on social media.

Former World Cup winner and Wallabies great Kefu said he has yet to discuss social media with Folau but is confident the 33-year-old won’t cause his team problems meanwhile.

“It’s probably the elephant in the room,” Kefu said. “Right now, [trust] is what we probably have to rely on.

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

“I’m sure we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

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

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

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

On the outside, Folau has only posted a handful of times to the more than 400,000 followers on his social media accounts since he was sacked in 2019.

While the post that triggered his dismissal remains on one of his accounts, the dual-code international has avoided controversy while restarting his professional rugby career.

Folau returned to rugby league in 2020 after being thrown a lifeline by the Catalan Dragons, despite opposition from 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 15 out of a possible 17 games and agreed to a contract extension until the end of 2021. However, he did not return for the pre-season, with the Dragons allowing him to stay in Australia in order to attend “a personal family situation”. .

The Catalans have agreed to release the dual-code international in June 2021 to allow him to resume his career in Australia.

Folau, who has scored 37 tries in 73 Tests for the Wallabies, was named in Kefu’s squad last week for next month’s Pacific Nations Cup, which will feature hosts Fiji, Samoa and a team” A” Australian.

He will also be part of Tonga’s 2023 World Cup qualifier against an Asia-based side on July 23, to be held on Australia’s Sunshine Coast.

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

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

World Rugby’s decision last year to allow players to switch international allegiances 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 seasoned internationals could do for Tongan rugby, which has long struggled to retain talent in the face of more lucrative opportunities overseas.

“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 haven’t seen in our environment.

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

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

“It will be a fantastic opportunity for these young people to learn.”