“He’s Tongan, he’s a bloody good player.”
Tonga head coach Toutai Kefu has said he would be happy to welcome former Australian international Israel Folau to his team.
Kefu was speaking about Folau with Radio NZ, who hasn’t played rugby union since his contract with Rugby Australia was cancelled in 2019 due to a number of social media posts that were deemed to be homophobic.
The former Wallaby hasn’t played international rugby for Australia since November 2018, but has expressed an interest in switching allegiance to Tonga through a loophole created by rugby sevens’ entry to the Olympics.
Toutai Kefu: Tonga would welcome Israel Folau to the team.
The loophole allows a player to switch international allegiance by playing in an Olympic qualifier for their new country, provided they have not played for their former country in at least three years.
While this means that Folau will be unable to avail of the loophole in the upcoming Olympic sevens qualifier in June, Tonga coach Kefu said he would be happy for the former Wallaby to switch his allegiance sometime in the future.
“He’s Tongan, he’s a bloody good player – we’re more than happy to have him and accommodate him…We’d have no concerns,” Kefu said.
“We all grew up the same way. We all went to Sunday School and then there’s different divisions of religion that we all grew up in. We certainly all support Israel and his views.”
‘We’re in constant discussion with Malakai Fekitoa.’
While Folau will not be able to switch his allegiance this year a number of former All Blacks will be able to, with the likes of Malakai Fekitoa, Charles Piutau and George Moala all reportedly interested.
However, Piutau and Moala may not be able to play for Tonga at the upcoming Olympics sevens qualifier due to club commitments, with only Fekitoa currently looking likely to switch his allegiance.
“Malakai is probably the only high-profile player that we know that looks like going to the tournament – we’re still in constant discussions with him,” Kefu explained.
TEN OF THE BEST! Offload after offload saw Malakai Fekitoa score a sensational try and secure the win against Ireland in Dublin. pic.twitter.com/zxMWJZKNSr
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) December 29, 2016
“It’s unfortunate about Charles. We still haven’t got the exact date of the tournament and there may be an option of maybe flying Charles in just for the day or day and a half to maybe just qualify him and get him on the field.
“I know he’s got finals [in the Gallagher Premiership] around that time so we still haven’t ruled him out.
“There’s George Moala as well who’s at Clermont and they look like they’ll be in the midst of finals as well [in the French Top 14] around that Monaco tournament.”