Israel Folau will MISS the Rugby World Cup after failing to recover from a knee injury…but this former Wallabies star will represent Tonga at the tournament
- Israel Folau will miss the Rugby World Cup because of a knee injury
- Tonga have named four former All Blacks in their 32-man squad
- The Pacific Islanders open their campaign against Ireland on September 16
A ‘devastated’ Israel Folau will miss the upcoming Rugby World Cup because of a knee injury, the Tonga Rugby Union said on Monday.
The former NRL and Wallabies star was omitted from head coach Toutai Kefu’s 32-man squad after failing to recover from a knee problem and will sit out the tournament alongside Telusa Veainu.
‘Isileli Folau (knee) and Telusa Veainu (hamstring) have suffered recurrences of existing injuries and will be unavailable for the tournament,’ the union said in a statement.
Kefu said Folau was ‘devastated’ at missing out and indicated one more player are expected to be added to the squad ahead of the August 28 deadline.
‘It’s a squad I’m very proud to coach and I know all the players are looking forward to representing their families and all Tongans around the globe with pride,’ the former Wallabies No8 said.
Israel Folau will miss the Rugby World Cup because of a knee injury
Toutai Kefu has named a 32-man squad for the tournament, which begins on September 8
‘Unfortunately a couple of our brothers, Isileli Folau and Telusa Veainu, won’t be joining us to due to existing injuries.’
The Rugby World Cup begins in France on September 8, with Tonga opening their campaign nine days later against reigning Six Nations champion Ireland in Nantes.
George Moala, meanwhile, has been selected despite being banned for five weeks for a dangerous tackle against Canada star Ben LeSage on August 14.
The Tongan’s tip-tackle was punished with a red card but his initial 10-week ban was subsequently halved.
‘George Moala, with the reduction of his suspension to five weeks, will be able to join the squad mid-campaign,’ Kefu said.
Moala is one of four former All Blacks in the squad along with Malakai Fekitoa, Vaea Fifita and Charles Piutau. Former Wallabies lock Adam Coleman has also been included in the 32-man group.
Folau switched allegiances to Tonga last year, when he represented the ʻIkale Tahi at the Pacific Nations Cup tournament after World Rugby changed its eligibility rules.
An evangelical Christian, Folau had his Rugby Australia contract torn up in 2019 after he posted a meme on social media which said ‘hell’ awaits homosexuals and other groups he considered as ‘sinners’.
Former Wallabies lock Adam Coleman has been included in the 32-man group
George Moala (middle) has been included in the World Cup squad despite being banned for five weeks for a dangerous tackle earlier this month
Folau, who had already drawn criticism for expressing his opposition to gay marriage in 2017 ahead of a national plebiscite on legalising same-sex marriage in Australia, rejected claims he was bigoted or homophobic.
His social media post and its fallout, however, proved bitterly divisive.
Rugby Australia felt Folau left it with no choice other than to seek termination of his contract, a move which angered some of the players who shared his Christian faith and Polynesian heritage.
Folau subsequently took Rugby Australia to court for unfair dismissal and demanded $14million in compensation under employment legislation which bans sacking an employee based on their religious beliefs.
The matter was eventually settled out of court and it reportedly cost Rugby Australia $4million, approximately the total value of his four-year contract.
An NRL star with the Melbourne Storm and the Broncos, Folau made the switch to union after two underwhelming seasons with Greater Western Sydney in the NEAFL and AFL.
Folau (second right) switched his allegiances to Tonga last year and played in the Pacific Nations Cup tournament
He made his rugby debut for the Waratahs in 2013, scoring 60 tries in 96 games across seven seasons for the club as the New South Wales team won a maiden Super Rugby title in 2014 and reached the semi-finals in 2015 and 2018.
Just months after starting his Super Rugby career, Folau made his Wallabies debut against the British and Irish Lions as Australia lost the Test series 2-1.
He went on to play 73 Tests for the Wallabies scoring 37 tries, the fourth-highest tally in Australian rugby’s history behind only David Campese with 64, Chris Latham and Adam Ashley-Cooper with 40 and 39 respectively.
Folau returned to rugby league in France in 2020 and tried to revive his career in the sport in Australia but was blocked by local officials.
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