Steve McNamara ‘unsure’ if Israel Folau will make Catalans debut this weekend
Israel Folau has two more training sessions with Catalans Dragons to demonstrate whether he is ready to make his Super League debut this weekend.
The 30-year-old dual-code international, whose signing by the French club caused a furore in the game, has been sidelined since being sacked by Rugby Australia last May after claiming “hell awaits” gay people.
But Folau, who switched codes a decade ago, is in his second week of training with his new team-mates and could make his comeback in the Dragons’ home game against Castleford on Saturday.
“We’re not sure,” Dragons boss Steve McNamara told the PA news agency. “We didn’t take him to Wakefield, we left him here to do some more training, which he completed.
“We’ve got two reasonable sessions, one this afternoon and one tomorrow afternoon when we’ll have a look and then we’ll decide.
“There’s no way I’m going to throw him into something that he’s not ready for. By the same token, if he is ready, then we’ll consider it. We’re really unsure at this stage.”
Catalans’ next game in Perpignan is not until March 7 but McNamara says he will not be influenced by the obvious temptation to give the club’s biggest signing his debut in front of their own fans.
“It’s not based on anything other than football, when he’s ready to contribute positively to the team on the field, as simple as that, whether that be home or away,” added the former England coach.
“Physically he’s in good shape. He’s not played the game for 10 years and he’s not trained with a team for seven or eight months so it’s going to take him some time but, in terms of how he looks after his body, he looks in really good shape.”
Folau was signed as a direct replacement for centre Brayden Wiliame and the Dragons have been hit by early-season injuries to fellow threequarters David Mead, Lewis Tierney and Tom Davies.
“There are one or two borderline who are getting close but it’s early for us,” he said. “We didn’t get back until 6.30pm last night and we’re just assessing everything.”
The postponement of the Catalans’ round-two fixture at Wakefield on Sunday has left the club with two trips to England to rearrange, with the likelihood of midweek matches.
The scheduled game at St Helens on February 21 was an early postponement due to the champions’ involvement in the World Club Challenge that weekend, a move that has bewildered McNamara.
“Obviously the game being cancelled at the weekend is a huge one for us,” he said. “It has made it really difficult for us, particularly after they gave us St Helens in World Club Challenge weekend.
“For the life of me I can’t understand why an overseas team was given St Helens to rearrange.
“It makes the logistics far more difficult than for an English-based team with the flights and hotels, and now we’ve got two of them. It’s a costly one.”