The Waratahs and the Australian Rugby Union have confirmed the re-signing of full-back Israel Folau on a three-year "flexible" contract which will keep him in Australian rugby until at least 2018.
However, according to reports in Japan, Folau will join Japanese club NTT-Docomo Red Hurricanes later this year.
Folau will play for the Hurricanes in the 2015/16 season but will return to play Super Rugby for the Waratahs early next year.
Folau has been a key figure for Australian Rugby on and off the field since joining Rugby Union in 2013, and has since played in all 29 Test matches for the Wallabies over the past two seasons.
Folau has scored 17 total tries in those Test matches, including his memorable two-try performance in Australia’s opening match of the historic British & Irish Lions series in 2013.
The 26 year-old joined the Waratahs for the 2013 season, making an immediate impact to the side with his impressive speed and agility.
In just his second year in the code, he was named 2014 Australian Super Rugby Player of the Year after an outstanding season in which he scored twelve tries in fourteen matches and was an integral member of the title winning team.
"I've already had so many great moments and experiences in Rugby over the past few years, but I feel like I am still just scratching the surface of what I am capable of, which is something that really excites me,” Folau said.
"Michael Cheika has also created a team environment which players really want to be part of, and that for me was one of the most important things when weighing up my future.
"He has created a culture that is extremely hard to walk away from, but just as importantly, it’s an environment which challenges you every day to be a better player and person.
"In the end, there is still so much I want to achieve playing Rugby in Australia and am thrilled to now have my contract sorted through until the end of 2018."
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said it was important to retain a player of Folau’s calibre in Australia.
"Israel is one of Rugby’s truly world-class individuals, and he is the type of person and player that you want setting the standards in any team environment," Cheika said.
"He has developed his game so much in the two and a half years since he initially joined the Waratahs, and I know he has a burning desire to continue growing as a player over the next few seasons.
"He works extremely hard at being the exceptional talent he is, and is someone all Australian Rugby fans can be excited about seeing in the gold jersey for a long time yet."
A key member of the Waratah’s leadership group, Israel was named as vice vaptain for the first time in 2015, and held the role for five matches.
2016 Waratahs Head Coach Daryl Gibson said he was pleased that Folau had committed to stay in Australian rugby.
"Israel is one of the most talented rugby players in the world at the moment, and we are delighted that he will be with us here at the Waratahs for the next three years," Gibson said.
"His performances on the field are consistently outstanding, and his professionalism and attitude set an example for the whole team.
"It’s so refreshing to see a player like him, who is so celebrated for his talent but has stayed so humble and grounded – he is a true role model for those around him."
The hard-running full-back’s exciting brand of rugby has earned him a number of accolades in his first three seasons, but Gibson says his best is yet to come.
"Israel is obviously an extremely skilful player already, but his game is still developing and improving – so it will be exciting to see it evolve over the next three years," Gibson said.
2015 Super Rugby Statistics:
2256 run metres
83 broken tackles
31 line breaks
13 try assists
18 line break assists