Bombshell Wallabies twist in stunning Israel Folau comeback

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Pictured here, Israel Folau during his former playing days with the Wallabies.
Plans are being discussed that could see Israel Folau line up against his former Wallabies team. Pic: Getty

Israel Folau's sensational return to international rugby union could coincide with a blockbuster showdown against the Wallabies.

Folau last month revealed plans to play for Tonga in next year's Rugby World Cup in France.

The 33-year-old was famously sacked by Rugby Australia (RA) in 2019 for saying that "hell awaits" gay people and others he considers sinners in a post on social media that can still be seen on his Instagram account and has been liked almost 75,000 times.

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He had previously been embroiled in a similar row and he went on to cause further offence in 2019 when he suggested that bushfires and drought ravaging Australia were "God's judgement" for the legalisation of same-sex marriage and abortion.

Folau took RA to court for unfair dismissal, demanding $14 million in compensation under employment legislation that bans sacking someone because of their religious beliefs.

The case was settled out of court with RA reported to have paid Folau $4 million and the player claiming he had been "vindicated".

The dual-code international moved to Japan at the end of last year to resume his rugby union career after a brief return to rugby league, and is hoping to take advantage of a new rule that allows him to represent the country of his parents' birth - Tonga.

With plans underway for Australia A to join this year's Pacific Nations Cup, it means Folau could line up for Tonga against his former countrymen.

Furthermore, Tonga coach and Wallabies legend Toutai Kefu says he's hopeful of organising a match between the Pacific Island Nation and Australia, in Brisbane next year.

The match would mark the 50th anniversary of Tonga's incredible 16-11 victory over the Wallabies at at Ballymore in 1973, and has already been floated to Wallabies coach, Dave Rennie.

Kefu admits that the Wallabies' packed schedule could prove to be a stumbling block, with the Aussies flying to France to take on the host nation before the World Cup gets underway in September.

From left to right, cross-code footy star Israel Folau and Tonga rugby coach, Toutai Kefu.
Israel Folau (L) could play against his former countrymen for Aussie great Toutai Kefu's Tonga side. Pic: Getty

Tonga eyeing anniversary match against Wallabies

“We thought we could get a game with them before they fly out to France,” Kefu told foxsports.com.au from France.

“We’re still working through a few things, so it still might happen.

“But you’re right, it’s the 50-year anniversary of that match.

“That happened at Ballymore and we would have loved to have had that game at Suncorp.

“That team, they still talk about that side in the streets and the bars, to beat the Wallabies back then was something else, so it would have been a fantastic opportunity to celebrate it.

Folau - who says he has no regrets around his acrimonious split from Australian rugby - is eligible to play for Tonga and said it would be "special" to make the switch after being sounded out by Kefu.

Seen here, Israel Folau playing rugby in Japan.
Israel Folau, who is currently playing club rugby in Japan, hopes to play for Tonga at the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France. Pic: Getty

"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," said Folau, Super Rugby's all-time leading try-scorer.

"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."

Governing body World Rugby approved a landmark change to its international eligibility rules in November last year.

Players can now switch teams if they have not been selected for their national side for at least three years and have a parent or grandparent born in the country they wish to represent.

Folau meets that criteria, having won the last of his 73 caps for the Wallabies in 2018 before he was booted out for a "high-level breach" of Rugby Australia's code of conduct.

with agencies

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