Israel Folau: Unrepentant ex-Wallaby targets a Test return with Tonga for 2023 Rugby World Cup

Controversial former Australian full-back Israel Folau is “definitely interested” in representing Tonga at the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.

Folau was an integral part of the Wallabies side that lost to New Zealand in the 2015 Rugby World Cup final but was fired by Rugby Australia in 2019 for a shocking social media post saying that “hell awaits” gay people.

After the highly publicised sacking, Folau returned to rugby league for a short stint until moving to Japan last year where he is currently based and looks to benefit from the eligibility rule change.

Nationality switch

Despite being born in New South Wales, the dual-code player is eligible to represent Tonga and would love to make the switch.

“Representing your heritage and where you’re from, representing your parents is something that is quite close to not only myself but to many other Polynesians,” Folau told AFP.

“It would be a huge honour if I got the opportunity. We’ll see if that opportunity comes about but I’d love to put the Tongan jersey on and represent Tonga.”

The change in ruling from World Rugby states that players can switch teams if they have not played 100 Test matches, had a stand-down of three years and have a parent or grandparent born in the country they look to represent.

With 73 appearances for Australia and now having played since 2018, he could be set to return to international rugby.

Folau never backed away from his standpoint despite huge media backlash and still refuses to do so.

“I have no regrets about anything but it’s led me here to Japan and I’m grateful for the opportunity,” said Folau.

“I’m just stoked to be playing rugby again. It’s a different experience to what I’m used to back in Australia but it’s something that I’m really enjoying.”

The 32-year-old will hope to end his career on a high with Tonga at the Rugby World Cup and he believes the rule change is a big step for Pacific Island teams.

“It’s only going to raise the standard across the board of world rugby and strengthen those Tier Two nations,” he said.

“It’s going to strengthen Tonga, it’s also going to strengthen Samoa, Fiji – all those guys will be available to represent their nations.”

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