Rugby league governing body pours cold water on Folau's return

The Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) has disputed claims by Tonga National Rugby League that it gave “approval” for dual international Israel Folau to represent Tonga in international matches.

The sport’s England-based international governing body said the statement by the Tonga National Rugby League is incorrect.

“The Rugby League International Federation is aware of a media release issued by Tonga National Rugby League stating that Israel Folau has been ‘approved’ by the RLIF to represent Tonga in international matches,” the RLIF said in a statement issued overnight.

“That statement is incorrect, the RLIF has not been formally asked to consider this matter. The RLIF will not be commenting further on this situation at this stage.”

Media reports in Australia and New Zealand quoted Tonga’s national rugby league side’s head coach, Frank Endacott, who welcomed the former Australian Wallaby player and his brother John Folau to the team.

"This is great news," Endacott told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 

"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."

Folau has taken Rugby Australia and NSW Waratahs to court for unfair dismissal after he was sacked this year for making social media posts, saying “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolators” would go to hell unless they repented. He is reportedly seeking AU$10 million in damages from Rugby Australia and his contract reinstated. 

Tonga's rugby league side is scheduled to take on Great Britain in New Zealand on October 26 and Australia on November 2. But the statement by the RLIF pours cold water on Folau’s return to the 13-men game, after he left the Brisbane Broncos in 2010 to player with the Australian Football League club, the Greater Western Sydney Giants. In December 2012 he announced his switch to rugby union and joined the NSW Waratahs side, where he played until his sacking in May this year.

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