Israel Folau: Catalans coach Steve McNamara defends controversial signing

Israel Folau
Israel Folau could make his Catalans debut at Wakefield on Sunday

Catalans Dragons coach Steve McNamara says he "stands by" the decision to sign sacked Australia rugby union international Israel Folau.

Other clubs are set to hold crisis talks over the signing with Dragons chairman Bernard Guasch at a Super League board meeting on Wednesday.

Folau, 30, has not played a match of any kind for 10 months since writing a homophobic post on social media.

"We knew it would be controversial," said ex-England coach McNamara.

"We investigated a fair few players, Israel's name was on that list and, having spent a lot of time speaking to him and understanding him a lot more and getting reassurances, we made a decision as a club that we would support Israel and give him another opportunity in our game."

Folau has begun training with Catalans, but the date of his Super League debut remains unclear as he has numerous fitness tests.

He was sacked by Australia Rugby for saying "hell awaits" gay people in a social media post in April 2019.

Steve McNamara
Steve McNamara became Dragons boss in 2017, having coached England from 2010-2015

Both the Rugby Football League (RFL), the British game's governing body, and Super League said they "deplored" Folau's previous comments and it was "a difficult decision" to allow him into the competition.

In an interview conducted by the Dragons, Folau made no reference to the off-field controversies.

"I'm excited to be back playing the game I grew up playing," he said.

"It's been 10 years since I last played league and I'm grateful for the opportunity to be part of a great organisation and a great team in Catalans.

"Being able to train with the team and work alongside the coaches, that's something I've missed in the last seven months but it's fantastic to be back in a team environment and getting into that routine of training hard again, enjoying the game and putting my best foot forward."

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