Controversial ex-Wallaby Israel Folau's hopes of a dramatic return to Australia's NRL have been dashed after the St George Illawarra Dragons said it had ended talks with the former star.
The polarising 31-year-old was sacked by Rugby Australia in May 2019 for a homophobic social media post saying that "hell awaits" gay people and others he considers sinners.
The Dragons on Tuesday confirmed discussions with Folau were underway and the club had made enquiries with the NRL about registering a playing contract for him.
But the Dragons issued a brief statement late Wednesday saying Folau was no longer a target.
"While the Dragons did enquire about signing Folau, the club can confirm that such discussions have now ceased. The Dragons will make no further comment," it said, offering no explanation for the change of heart.
The Australian Rugby League Commission has previously suggested it would not allow Folau to return to the league, with chairman Peter V'landys saying he wanted a game that was inclusive.
Folau was a star NRL player early in his career, then switched to rugby union after an unsuccessful stint playing Australian Rules.
He scored 37 tries in 73 rugby union Tests before being dumped by Australia in 2019, then returned to league in February last year with the Catalan Dragons.
He is still under contract with the French side for 2021 but reportedly returned to Australia recently after his wife gave birth to their first child.
The devout Christian won a multimillion-dollar settlement from Rugby Australia after challenging his dismissal under laws that disallow sackings because of a person's religion.
He later sparked fresh outrage by suggesting destructive bushfires and drought ravaging Australia in late 2019 were "God's judgement" for the legalisation of same-sex marriage and abortion.