Rugby lifeline for Israel Folau ... in Asia?
Sydney - Australian
billionaire Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest could offer Israel Folau a career
lifeline in Asia if the star Wallaby's contract is terminated over his
homophobic comments, it was reported on Thursday.
Tonga coach Toutai Kefu has also said he is keen for Folau to switch
allegiance to his team, even though the fullback would have to serve a
three-year stand-down period to be eligible.
The devoutly Christian player was found guilty this week of a
"high-level" breach of the sport's code of conduct after posting an
anti-gay statement on social media, leaving his career hanging in the
The 30-year-old has limited options if his lucrative Rugby Australia
contract is torn up, with the National Rugby League ruling out signing
him and many overseas rugby clubs shying away from his anti-gay views.
But Sydney's Daily Telegraph reported that Forrest, himself a
committed Christian, could find a spot for Folau in his Global Rapid
Rugby competition, which is set to kick off next year.
It said the competition was interested in making the fullback a
marquee signing for either the Hong Kong-based South China Tigers or the
Singapore-based Asia Pacific Dragons.
"Global Rapid Rugby has spoken to a number of talented international
players and will continue to do so," a spokesperson for the competition
told AFP when asked about Folau.
"No contracts have been offered to any players."
He added that marquee players were likely to be a part of the competition.
Global Rapid Rugby, a fast-paced game with radical new rules, was set
up by mining magnate Forrest after his beloved Western Force were cut
from the Super Rugby competition in 2017.
An eight-team, 56-game
competition is due to begin in 2020 after its launch was delayed by 12
months because of this year's World Cup in Japan.
Instead, some of the teams are involved in a "Showcase Series"
travelling throughout Asia and the Pacific. The next match is in Hong
Kong on Sunday followed by fixtures in Fiji, Australia and New Zealand.
But Forrest could face competition from Tonga for Folau, with Kefu saying he would welcome the prolific try scorer.
"I'd love that. I think he would get a lot of satisfaction out of
playing for Tonga," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
"He could definitely be available for the next World Cup (in 2023)."
However, the former Wallabies forward revealed there was a catch if
Sydney-born Folau chose to represent his parents' homeland - he would
have to do it for free.
"The Tonga Rugby Union has no money, we are 100 percent funded by World Rugby, he said.
"We can't afford to pay our players. So our players they play for
pride of jersey, they play to representative their families, they play
to go to a World Cup."
Rugby Australia's code of conduct panel is yet to decide what
sanction Folau will face - he could be fired from his four-year A$4
million contract, fined or suspended.
No timescale has been given for the decision, with legal experts
warning that whatever happens an appeal is likely, potentially followed
by a drawn-out court battle.