Wallabies wish Folau ‘all the best’ with big switch

Israel Folau is the forgotten man of the Rugby World Cup no more.

The Wallabies are so used to him stealing their thunder just before they are about to play a big match that no-one was remotely surprised when the news broke that he wants to play rugby league for Tonga.

"We're just here to focus on the Rugby World Cup, you know what I mean," Wallaby halfback Will Genia said. "But I wish him well."

When he was part of the Wallabies, Folau was a master of injecting himself into the action whenever Australia needed a bit of magic.

But even after he was kicked out of the sport for his anti-gay postings, he's still the master of grabbing the spotlight, especially when his former teammates have a massive game approaching.

Coincidence or not, it's happened so many times that the players know they can almost set their watch by it, so they don't even blink an eye anymore when it happens.

After spending the first half of the year fielding questions about his falling out with Rugby Australia, they've become so immune to the whole saga that it longer distracts them.

"He's an exceptional talent and someone like that I feel would be wasted not to play again," Wallaby five-eighth Christian Lealiifano said. "I think it'll be nice to see him run around, which will be cool. We're happy for him I think if he gets to do that."

All the players feel the same.

Folau was not just a star player but he was also very popular with his teammates, so everyone wishes him well, even those that don't share his religious beliefs.

David Pocock, who refused to formally wed his long-time partner and now wife Emma until marriage equality was legalised, said: "All the best to him. Mate Ma'a Tonga. Hopefully they go well."

The timing of the latest Folau news comes just days before the Wallabies' biggest match of the year so far - their World Cup clash with Wales that will almost certainly decide which team wins Pool D and earns an easier path through the playoffs.

And it wasn't lost on anyone that if Folau does end up playing for Tonga, he will appear against Australia at Eden Park in Auckland on November 2 - the same day the Rugby World Cup final takes place in Yokohama, Japan.

Like a lot of players, Lealiifano said he still keeps in contact with Folau, exchanging messages every so often, but if the Wallabies do make the World Cup, they won't be thinking about anything else.

"As Willie (Genia) said, we're completely focused on here," Lealiifano said. "But it's nice to sort of hopefully see him play some footy."

 

 

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