Disgraced former Australia rugby union star Israel Folau has signed to play rugby league for Tonga, according to reports.
Folau’s contract with Rugby Australia was terminated in May after he wrote a homophobic social media post which broke code of conduct rules.
The Instagram post, which has not been deleted, listed “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters,” reading underneath, “Hell awaits you.”
Folau previously played rugby league – a 13-man version of the game with different rules – for Australia before switching to Australian Rules football in 2011 and then rugby union in 2012.
“I don’t want to bring any of my personal matters into this and I am grateful that the RLIF (Rugby League International Federation) have endorsed my availability,” Folau, a devout Christian who made 73 appearances for the Wallabies, said in a Tonga National Rugby League (TNRL) statement, according to news.com.au.
“What I will do now is focus on playing great rugby league and do my talking on the field.”
CNN has reached out to TNRL for confirmation but is yet to receive a response.
Folau could play for Tonga against Great Britain in October and Australia in November. He previously played eight times for the Kangaroos – Australia’s rugby league team – but is eligible to play for Tonga through his parents.
The former fullback is seeking to claim AUS$10 million ($7 million) in damages in an ongoing legal battle against Rugby Australia. He lost sponsorship deals with car manufacturer Land Rover and sportswear brand Asics in the fallout of his dismissal by the governing body.
Folau’s brother John, a teammate of the former Wallaby at the NSW Warratahs, has also signed to play rugby league for Tonga after being granted permission to leave the Super Rugby side.
“This is great news,” Tonga’s head coach Frank Endacott was reported as saying. “These guys are great footballers and bring size, pace and skill to the team.
“They will make a huge impact in the team and provide exciting attack options all over the park.
“This will be great boost to the internationals, and I can’t wait to see the crowd support that this will generate from our famous Mate Ma’a Tonga supporters. It is good to see the RLIF approving these players for internationals. This is great for the game.”