Israel Folau makes rugby union return and joins Rob Penney in Japan

Fullback had Wallabies and Super Rugby deals terminated in 2019 for homophobia

Israel Folau watches on during the QTOP A Grade QRL match between the Burleigh Bears and the Southport Tigers in Australia last month. Photo: Matt Roberts/Getty Images

Israel Folau watches on during the QTOP A Grade QRL match between the Burleigh Bears and the Southport Tigers in Australia last month. Photo: Matt Roberts/Getty Images

 

Israel Folau has signed with Japanese Top League side NTT Communications in a fresh twist after the sacked Wallabies fullback’s recent attempts to resurrect his rugby league career in Queensland.

With the backing of billionaire businessman Clive Palmer, Folau engaged lawyers to fight his case for a return for Southport in Gold Coast club football, despite failing to receive a contract clearance from French outfit Catalans.

That clearance came last week and a deal with the Top League club, which also announced sacked Waratahs and former Munster coach Rob Penney as the new director of rugby, followed in a move that has reportedly taken Palmer by surprise.

Folau’s Wallabies career ended in 2019 after he posted a meme that said hell awaited “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers” and others. A drawn-out legal battle with Rugby Australia followed before he signed with the Catalans Dragons in the English Super League.

Citing personal reasons, he returned to Australia while still under contract and pushed his case with the QRL for a return. Folau was set to play for the Southport Tigers last weekend before Covid-19 restrictions put paid to the clash.

The timing of the Japanese season – Folau is not due there until September – means he could still feature for the Tigers this year. It is understood Folau’s Japan contract is significantly less than his AUS$1m (€630,000) a season deal with Rugby Australia, while it carries strict clauses relating to his social media activity.

The three-time Wallabies player of the year is eligible to play for the national side again under the Giteau Law – he has played 73 Tests – but it is understood he is not on coach Dave Rennie’s radar. – Guardian

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