Former Wallaby Israel Folau has surprised all rugby fans after he was named in Tonga’s international side.
Sacked by the Australian team in 2019, Folau will be lining up in July’s Pacific Nations Cup and World Cup qualifier for his parents’ homeland, after World Rugby’s eligibility rules were changed.
The star was infamously sacked for his misconduct on social media, referring to homophobic comments and remarks on his account in 2019, which can still be seen.
Currently playing for the Shining Arcs in the Japan Rugby League One, Folau will now play on the international stage for the first time since the social media saga.
Despite his past, the 33-year-old was welcomed into the Tonga side, with coach Toutai Kefu excited by the talented centre player joining the country’s team under the new laws.
“He’s going to bring a lot of experience to the table,” Kefu said to ABC Australia.
“His presence is going to be one of the most exciting factors we’re looking forward to.”
Kefu also commented on the change in eligibility rules that were brought in late last year.
“It would have been at least a couple of years ago that we started having conversations about him possibly representing Ikale Tahi.
“It was quite informal back then – it was just an informal chat – and then, as his three-year stand-down approached, when that was going to finish there was a possibility of him playing Sevens to qualify for us and he was open to that.
“But then, fortunately, they changed that rule in November and he didn’t need to go through that route anymore. All he had to do was stand those three years down and he would qualify straight away.”
Folau played 73 games for the Wallabies between 2013-2019.
The ex-Wallaby proved to be a force on the field, being listed as the fourth highest try scoring Australian International player, only behind legends Adam Ashley-Cooper, Chris Latha, and David Campese.
Folau scored 37 tries in the Aussie outfit and will look to replicate his tenacious sporting prowess in Tongan colours.