Controversial cross-code player Israel Folau would be welcomed back into the Tonga set up, according to ex-captain Aleki Lutui.
The disgraced former Wallaby was sacked by Rugby Australia for posting homophobic comments in an Instagram post in 2019.
Folau then fought a significant legal battle with the governing body, which was eventually settled in December of that year.
In 2020, he returned to rugby league – the sport where his professional career began – and signed a deal with Catalan Dragons.
The 32-year-old was released from his contract in 2021 and returned to Australia, citing ‘personal reasons’, but has since joined Japanese rugby union outfit Shining Arcs.
Making his debut this weekend
He will make his debut for the club in Japan Rugby League One this weekend and could feature for Tonga at the 2023 World Cup due to the change in eligibility laws.
“I think Tonga will welcome back Folau, especially as his parents are from Tonga. I think he will be proud to represent the country if he is given that opportunity,” Lutui told The Rugby Paper.
With Folau, as well as a number of other former All Blacks and Wallabies, in their side, Tonga could well show a significant improvement at the next World Cup – providing they qualify.
“If we get all our players available, we could be a force at the 2023 World Cup. Especially if our backs put their hands up and make themselves available, I think we can compete,” added Lutui.
“But it is all down to individual player decision, if they make themselves available, I am sure they will give everything for our country.
“If we have the likes of Charles Piutau, Malakai Fekitoa, Ngani Laumape and Folau available it will be huge.”
The article ‘Tonga will welcome back Israel Folau’ – Aleki Lutui appeared first on Planetrugby.com.