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Israel Folau could be on a collision course to play against the Wallabies if plans for an international match between Australia and Tonga come to fruition.
Folau could face off against an Australian side as soon as this year, with plans for Australia A to join the Pacific Nations Cup in July.
The Pacific Nations Cup will be mostly hosted in Fiji, however there is talk of a round being held on the Sunshine Coast which means there is potential for Folau to represent Tonga on Australian soil this year.
Folau is now playing in Japan for Shining Arcs Tokyo-Bay Urayasu and has expressed interest in representing Tonga at the 2023 World Cup in France.
But the former Aussie fullback could also square up against the actual Wallabies with Tonga and Australia in negotiations to play a one-off match at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane before the 2023 World Cup in France.
Folau had previously been involved in a legal battle over his Rugby Australia contract following an allegedly homophobic post on social media three years ago.
Rugby Australia fired him in 2019 after he posted an Instagram saying that gay people and others he considers sinners would go to “hell”.
A confidential settlement was reached between the two parties and Folau has not been sighted at any level in Australian rugby ever since.
He is currently playing for Shining Arcs Tokyo-Bay Urayasu in Japan and has expressed interest in representing Tonga at the 2023 World Cup.
Players can now change allegiances on the international stage following a three-year stand-down period if they were born in the country they wish to represent or if they have a parent or grandparent born there.
As a result of the law change, players like Folau are eligible to represent Tonga.
Former Wallaby Toutai Kefu is trying to arrange a one-off Test between Tonga and Australia at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane. It could see Folau play against the Wallabies.
Former Wallaby Toutai Kefu is the current Tonga coach and said the potential matches against Australia A and the Wallabies had been mentioned to Folau.
‘I mentioned that to him [Folau] and his eyes lit up at the chance of playing the Wallabies,’ Kefu told Fox Sports Australia.
‘We’re still working through a few things, so it still might happen.
‘It’s the 50-year anniversary of that match … that happened at Ballymore and we would have loved to have had that game at Suncorp.
‘That team, they still talk about that side in the streets and the bars, to beat the Wallabies back then was something else, so it would have been a fantastic opportunity to celebrate it.
‘It would have been great timing before the World Cup. It would be a great occasion to celebrate Tongan Rugby Union history.’
Folau played 73 Tests for Australia before his contract was terminated in 2019 for comments he made on social media about gay people going to ‘hell’.
Speaking to AFP in March this year, Folau said he had no regrets about the past and his ultimate termination from Australian rugby.
‘I have no regrets about anything but it’s led me here to Japan and I’m grateful for the opportunity,’ Folau said.
‘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.’
In order to qualify for the Rugby World Cup in France next year, Tonga must win an Asia/Pacific play-off series in July. Tonga has only missed the World Cup once, in 1991.
Folau has expressed interest in representing Tonga at the World Cup but has not formally signalled his intent to play in qualifying matches or the Pacific Nations Cup yet.