Rugby-St George Illawarra explores possibility of signing Folau

·2-min read
Super League Semi Final - St Helens v Catalan Dragons

(Reuters) - Australian National Rugby League (NRL) side St George Illawarra Dragons are seeking permission from the league to sign controversial former Wallabies fullback Israel Folau, the team said on Tuesday.

Folau, who has triggered outrage with inflammatory social media posts in the past, is contracted to French side Catalans Dragons in the Super League, but St George Illawarra CEO Ryan Webb is hopeful of signing him on a two-year deal.

"We're definitely interested and we're talking to Israel," St George Illawarra CEO Ryan Webb told the NRL website.

"Now we're working with the NRL to allay any concerns on registering a contract for him."

A fundamentalist Christian, Folau had his Wallabies and Super Rugby deals terminated in 2019 after the 31-year-old posted a meme that said hell awaited "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers" and other groups.

"We understand there will be a range of opinions in regards to this decision, but we believe he would be a good addition to our club," Webb added.

Pride in Sport, an organisation that supports Australian sporting bodies and clubs on LGBTQ inclusion, said they would expect St George Illawarra to have a zero-tolerance policy on discrimination against LGBTQ people if Folau joins.

"NRL is a code that prides itself as being a sport for everyone with strong values of diversity and inclusion," Pride In Sport Index co-founder Andrew Purchas said in a statement.

"History has shown Folau's repeated failures to abide by sporting inclusion policies despite assurances."

NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said the governing body would meet fans and sponsors as part of its due diligence process before Folau's potential return.

Folau is back in Australia after his wife gave birth to their first child.

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Nick Macfie)