Folau arrives at Catalans amid disgruntlement among rivals
PERPIGNAN, France (AP) — Israel Folau has arrived in the south of France and begun training with his new teammates at Catalans Dragons following his controversial move to the rugby league club.
Catalans have faced widespread criticism for signing Folau, who was fired by Rugby Australia over an Instagram post in April in which he condemned "drunks, homosexuals" and warned "hell awaits" them. In November he linked the bushfires that have devastated Australia as God’s punishment for legalizing same-sex marriage and abortion.
Folau could make his debut in Europe’s Super League competition on Sunday against Wakefield Trinity, which has paid for extra stewarding for the match in view of potential protests.
Folau, one of rugby’s biggest stars, has been out of action since last playing for the New South Wales-based Waratahs in April and has not played league for 10 years.
Catalans chairman Bernard Guasch has said his club does not agree with Folau's views and that it signed an agreement with the Rugby Football League that any transgression by the player will trigger an immediate termination of his contract and a substantial fine for the French club.
Guasch is set to attend a meeting with other Super League clubs in Salford, England, on Wednesday, and Wakefield chief executive Michael Carter has confirmed the Folau issue will be high on the agenda amid a threat of legal action - led by Hull KR chairman Neil Hudgell - in the event of clubs losing sponsorship as a result of Folau's presence in the competition.
"I think Neil was just putting a marker down,” Carter said. “We are reserving our rights should there be any financial backlash that we push Catalans on notice."
The Super League has said it was "a difficult decision” to allow Folau to be registered but added he had not been charged or found guilty of a criminal offense and that “the moral responsibility for deciding whether to sign a player sits with individual clubs.”
Folau is on a one-year deal with Catalans.
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