Israel Folau set for shock rugby return
Israel Folau is set to lace up the boots and make a shock return to rugby despite ongoing legal fight with Rugby Australia.
The star player's return to rugby league will be with the Tonga national team in the Pacific nation's clash with Great Britain later this year.
Folau is unable to play for Tonga in the World Nines at Bankwest Stadium because the event is run by the NRL who have blocked a return to the code for him.
BREAKING: Israel Folau poised to make shock return for Tonga in rugby league— Dean Ritchie (@BulldogRitchie) September 23, 2019
The matches in late October, early November are run under the control of the Rugby League International Federation which won't stop Folau from playing.
Tonga will play Great Britain in Hamilton on October 26 before they take on Australia in Auckland on November 2.
"I don't want to bring any of my personal matters into this and I am grateful that the RLIF have endorsed my availability," Folau said in a TNRL media release.
"What I will do now is focus on playing great rugby league and do my talking on the field."
Tonga's national team head coach Frank Endacott was overjoyed that he'll have not only Israel but his brother John in the squad.
"This is great news", said Endacott. "These guys are great footballers and bring size, pace and skill to the team. They will make a huge impact in the team and provide exciting attack options all over the park."
"This will be great boost to the internationals, and I cant wait to see the crowd support that this will generate from our famous Mate Ma'a Tonga supporters," Endacott added. "And it is good to see the RLIF approving these players for internationals. This is great for the game."
Australian Rugby League Chairman Peter Beattie shut the door on Folau returning to the NRL saying in June: "Our position on Israel Folau remains the same.
"We are an inclusive game with respect for all. Israel has social media posts online that go against what our game stands for.
"As it stands, he will not be considered for registration. What Israel chooses to do in relation to his social media posts and his faith is a matter for him."
The ex-Wallaby claims he's in the "fight of his life" to be reinstated by Rugby Australia, which pulled his $4 million contract in May after the committed Christian posted a Bible passage on social media and was criticised for being homophobic.
The post said "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters" would go to hell unless they repented.
His former employers say the post breached their code of conduct and both sides are likely to clash at a trial in February next year if a court-directed mediation hearing fails in December.
Folau said it was his "mission and duty to spread the word of God" and that his social media posts represented his "real and genuine" religious beliefs.
Folau, who is also seeking an apology and for his contract to be reinstated, will return to court on December 17 ahead of a trial if mediation is unsuccessful.