Israel Folau begins training with Catalans ahead of possible weekend debut
Israel Folau has begun training with his new team-mates in the south of France as Catalans Dragons chairman Bernard Guasch prepares to face the music over the controversial signing.
The French Super League club imposed a media blackout after announcing a week ago that the dual-code international – banned by Rugby Australia last May over homophobic comments he made on social media – has signed a 12-month contract with them.
The Catalans refused to say when the player was due to arrive from Australia and cancelled plans for a press conference following a barrage of unwelcome publicity.
Folau, who said “hell awaits” gay people, is thought to have flown in on Monday and was seen arriving at Stade Gilbert Brutus on Tuesday morning.
The Dragons’ next match is at Wakefield on Sunday and coach Steve McNamara could be tempted to include him in his squad after losing a host of outside backs to injury.
Folau, signed as a straight replacement for Fiji international Brayden Wiliame, has been out of action since last playing for the Warratahs last April and his last game of league was 10 years ago.
Meanwhile, Guasch is expected to make a rare appearance at a meeting of Super League clubs in Salford on Wednesday to explain his club’s behaviour.
The vast majority of clubs, along with the Rugby Football League and Super League, have publicly stated their opposition to the signing and made a request for Guasch to attend what is a routine get-together but with the Folau signing set to come up under any other business.
Folau sued Rugby Australia for £7.4million after it terminated his contract and reached a settlement in December after arguing it amounted to religious discrimination.
Guasch has insisted the Dragons do not agree with Folau’s views and says they signed an agreement with the RFL that any transgression will trigger an immediate termination of the player’s contract and a substantial fine for the club.