Israel Folau keen to represent Tonga in 2023 Rugby World Cup

Israel Folau has played 73 Tests for Australia between 2013 and 2018
Israel Folau has played 73 Tests for Australia between 2013 and 2018

Former Australia fullback Israel Folau has expressed his desire to represent Tonga in the upcoming 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Folau's national contract was terminated by Rugby Australia in May 2019 following his homophobic comments in social media that stated "Warning. Drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolators. Hell awaits you. Repent! Only Jesus saves" in response to Tasmania's decision to become Australia's first state to make it legally optional to list gender on birth certificates.

Having represented the Wallabies in 73 games, including five appearances in the 2015 World Cup, the 32-year-old dual-code international went on to represent Japan's Shining Arcs in 2022 and is now is hoping to represent the country of his parent's birth as the new World Rugby Regulations allows players to switch teams if they are not selected in a national team for a minimum of three years.

“Representing your heritage and where you’re from, representing your parents is something that is quite close to not only myself but to many other Polynesians,” said Folau, Super Rugby’s all-time top try-scorer.

“It would be a huge honour if I got the opportunity. We’ll see if that opportunity comes about but I’d love to put the Tongan jersey on and represent Tonga."

Speaking about his move to Japan, Folau said: “I have no regrets about anything but it’s led me here to Japan and I’m grateful for the opportunity,” said Folau, who has scored eight tries in seven games for his new team, who are bottom of the first-division table.

“I’m just stoked to be playing rugby again. It’s a different experience to what I’m used to back in Australia but it’s something that I’m really enjoying.”