Tonga wants Israel Folau to switch allegiance

Date published: June 13 2019

Tonga head coach Toutai Kefu has revealed that he wants sacked Wallabies and Waratahs star Israel Folau to switch allegiances and play for the Pacific Island country at the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.

Kefu said he has contacted Folau’s camp about the possibility of trying to get him qualified for the global showpiece which will be hosted by France in four years time.

Folau, who has Tongan heritage, launched legal proceedings against Rugby Australia last week after being sacked for a homophobic social media post.

The 30-year-old would have to sit out international rugby for three years and then play for Tonga at Sevens in an Olympic qualifying event if he wants to represent the country at Test level.

“The next World Cup, he’d be available for us hopefully,” Kefu told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“It’s a long time away, so we’ll let the dust settle a bit after his most recent issues.

“We don’t even know if he’s going to play again. He hasn’t indicated where he is going, so we’ll wait until the dust settles and then look at those options.

“He’d have to sit out three years and then even after that we’d have to re-qualify him through a sevens Olympic qualifying tournament.”

Kefu also said that Folau’s younger brother, John, could be named in Tonga’s squad for next month’s Pacific Nations Cup (PNC).

The younger Folau was granted an immediate release from the Waratahs last week.

“He’s definitely on our radar and we’ve already spoken to him,” added Kefu.

“I’ve actually never seen him play but I’ve got a playing history of him. We’re going to look at him and even may take him to the PNC because we’ve got some holes in our squad, especially out wide in the backs. There’s a good chance he will be part of that squad.

“You look at what he has done; he’s played in the NRL for a couple of years and he’s been on the fringe of Super Rugby for a couple of years. He definitely qualifies because he’s got a Tongan passport.

“If he’s played in those competitions before he’s certainly good enough to have a trial for us and then we can see whether he is good enough to be part of that Rugby World Cup squad.”