Israel Folau will make his competitive return to rugby union on Saturday, having been named in the Shining Arcs’ starting team for their Japan Rugby League One season opener.
The last time Folau played played in a competitive rugby union match was in 2019, before his contract with Rugby Australia and the New South Wales Waratahs was torn up after he made a number of social media posts that were deemed to be homophobic.
After his high-profile exit from Australian rugby union, Folau joined French rugby league club the Catalan Dragons in the Super League for the 2020 season.
Folau was contracted to play for the Catalan Dragons in the 2021 season also, but he ultimately decided to remain in Australia and played with amateur rugby league club the Southport Tigers instead.
Israel Folau will start at full back for the Shining Arcs.
The Shining Arcs announced that they had signed Folau for the 2022 season last July, and the former Australia international has been selected to start at full back against the Kobe Steelers.
Folau isn’t the only Australian at the club, as he is joined by fellow former Wallaby Liam Gill and Australia-born Japan international James Moore in the starting team, while former Melbourne Rebels lock Sam Jeffries is on the bench.
Former Munster head coach Rob Penney is the Shining Arcs director of rugby.
📣NTT JAPAN RUGBY LEAGUE ONE2022_試合メンバー発表
— ShiningArcs_official (@ShiningArcs) January 6, 2022
A return to international rugby is on the cards.
It might not be long before Folau is back in international rugby, following the rule changes to the sport’s international eligibility rules.
Players may now represent a second country, provided they haven’t played for their previous country in the last three years and if either themselves, their parents or their grandparents were born in the country they now wish to represent.
This means that Folau is now eligible to play for Tonga, the country of his parents’ birth, subject to approval from World Rugby’s Regulations Committee, having last played for Australia in November 2018.
Tonga have indicated that they would be willing to select Folau, along with a host of other players who can now switch their international allegiance, such as Charles Piutau and George Moala.
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