Dual-code international Israel Folau, who was sacked by Rugby Australia in 2019 for saying “hell awaits” gay people, will play club rugby in Japan next season, it was announced Monday.
Folau has signed with the NTT Communications Shining Arcs in the premier domestic competition when it starts its new season in January 2022, the Japan Rugby Football Union announced.
At his new club, based in Chiba near Tokyo, he will be coached by Rob Penney, who was sacked by NSW Waratahs in March after a nightmare five-loss start to the Super Rugby AU season.
Folau was released “with immediate effect” by French rugby league side Catalans Dragons last week.
The 32-year-old had informed the club he wanted to stay in Australia for what the Dragons said was “a personal family situation”, and also play for small-town club Southport Tigers alongside his two brothers.
His push to join Southport is being backed by mining billionaire Clive Palmer, who has threatened legal action against anyone who challenges Folau’s right to play.
Folau — an ardent Christian — 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 for the Wallabies before being dumped over a social media post warning “hell awaits” gay people and others he considers sinners. His comments drew a stern rebuke from Japan captain Michael Leitch.—AFP