Israel Folau and Charles Piutau will return to test rugby in July with Tonga

Israel Folau and Charles Piutau will return to test rugby in July with Tonga

Tonga head coach Toutai Kefu has named his squad for the Pacific Nations Cup & World Cup Qualifier 2022 this July.

Kefu has included former Wallaby outside back Israel Folau and former All Blacks Augustine Pulu and Charles Piutau.

Folau has been not played an international since Rugby Australia terminated his contract in 2019 following homophobic social media posts and he was forced out of the game. But recent changes in World Rugby’s eligibility laws allowing players to make an international switch after 36 months of inactivity mean Folau, who played the last of his 73 Tests for the Wallabies in November 2018, is eligible again. Folau’s parents are from Tonga.

The same applies to Piutau and Pulu who earned All Blacks caps in the past. Piutau played 17 tests for the All Blacks before turning his back on New Zealand rugby at just 23. Pulu played just two tests for the All Blacks in 2014

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Also included in the squad is Munster bound Malakai Fekitoa and powerhouse prop Ben Tameififuna. Fekitoa played 24 tests for the All Blacks between 2014 and 2017 before switching to the northern hemisphere to play for Toulon, then Wasps and now Munster.

Tonga is scheduled to play their first international against Fiji on 2 July and coach Toutai Kefu, a Wallabies great himself, said Folau’s presence would be a huge factor for his team.

“He’s going to bring a lot of experience to the table,” Kefu told ABC Radio Australia.

“His presence is going to be one of the most exciting factors we’re looking forward to.”

Folau is playing club rugby for the Shining Arcs in Japan under former Waratahs coach Rob Penney, having also spent time with Super League side the Catalan Dragons after being banished from Australian rugby.

Kefu said he had been talking to Folau for some time about playing for Tonga, a dream that became a reality thanks to the eligibility rule change.

“It would have been at least a couple of years ago that we started having conversations about him possibly representing Ikale Tahi,” Kefu said.

“It was quite informal back then – it was just an informal chat – and then, as his three-year stand-down approached, when that was going to finish there was a possibility of him playing Sevens to qualify for us and he was open to that.

“But then, fortunately, they changed that rule in November and he didn‘t need to go through that route anymore. All he had to do was stand those three years down and he would qualify straight away.”

Folau made his international debut in 2013 and scored 37 tries for the Wallabies before his acrimonious exit. He also made 96 appearances for the NSW Waratahs in Super Rugby and still holds the all-time try-scoring record with 60.

Fiji is set to host the Pacific Nations Cup tournament featuring Samoa, Tonga and Australia A from July 2-16.


Loosehead props: Sigfried Fisi'ihoi, Tau Kolomatangi, David Lolohea

Hookers: Samiuela Moli, Siua Maile, Jay Fonokalafi

Tighthead props: Siate Tokolahi, Ben Tameifuna, Sosefo Apikotoa

Backrow: Tanginoa Halaifonua, Viliami Taulani, Lotu Inisi, Solomone Funaki, Sione Tu'ipulotu

Locks: Samuela Lousi, Halaleva Fifita, Veikoso Poloniati

Halfbacks: Sonatane Takulua, Augustine Pulu, Manu Paea

First five-eighthWilliam Havili, James Faiva

Centres: Malakai Fekitoa, Afusipa Taumoepeau, Fetuli Paea, Fine Inisi

Outside backs: Solomone Kata, Charles Piutau, Tima Fainga'anuku, Israel Folau, Anzelo Tuitavuki


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