The Australian debuts on Saturday in Perpignan with the Dragons, the only French team in the English Super League rugby 13.
Rugby at 13, also known as rugby league, has fought for more than a century for a hole in the hearts of fans. From that condition of younger brother can be understood the stir generated by the signing of Israel Folau by the Dragons Catalans. On Saturday, the Australian international will debut in Perpignan with the team that has given him a new opportunity after that 10-month sanction caused by his homophobic comments.
“Of course I thought about the withdrawal and about other issues,” Folau admitted this week in an interview with the newspaper L'Independant. A tone much more temperate than his incendiary statements of last year on social networks, where he issued a severe warning to “drunk, gay, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolaters”: “Repent! Hell awaits you. Only Jesus saves, “exclaimed the wing aussie.
The idea of goodbye was abandoned after the offer of the Dragons, with whom it will premiere this Saturday in the Super League in a match against the Castleford Tigers. The Dragons are the only non-English team participating in this rugby tournament at 13, where some leaders showed their rejection of this operation. In fact, the board of directors of the Super League wants to oppose this kind of “controversial hiring” in the future.
At the moment, one of the clauses imposed by the Dragons stipulates that the contract will be broken if Folau, a fervent 30-year-old evangelical Christian, reiterates in the networks some message of the same nature.
“It deserves a second chance,” said Steve McNamara, a Dragons coach, after several “in-depth conversations” with his new coach. Of course, experience is not lacking when dealing with strong characters. In recent seasons, he owed players like Kenny Edwards, Greg Bird or Todd Carney to the group's dynamics, who also left Australia for similar controversies.
McNamara, former England coach, believes that Folau should not face a “lifetime penalty.” For the moment, another indispensable task will be to update the rules of rugby league to a player who abandoned this discipline a decade ago.
The logical expectation will be reflected in the stands of the Gilbert Brutus Stade, with almost 7,000 fans in the stands. “It's like a new outing for me. I feel a great emotion to return to the sport in which I began to make a name for myself,” Folau admits. Again with a much more conciliatory nuance than in his previous preaching.
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