Ryan Byrne/INPHO Isreal Folau in action against Ireland back in 2014.
# League One
Controversial ex-Wallabies star Folau set for return to rugby union in Japan
The 32-year-old has been picked to start for Rob Penney’s Shining Arcs this weekend.

ISRAEL FOLAU IS set to make his return to professional rugby union this weekend after being named to start for the Shining Arcs on the opening weekend of the new Japan Rugby League One season.

Ex-Wallabies fullback Folau had his Rugby Australia contract terminated in 2019 after making a social media post in which he claimed that hell awaits “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers” and others.

Rugby Australia deemed that Folau, a devout Christian, had breached its code of conduct and he was dismissed.

The player subsequently launched legal proceedings against the union and a settlement was reached in December 2019.

Folau made a move back into rugby league – which he had previously played up to international level with Australia – in 2020 as he joined the Catalan Dragons.

In 2021, Folau was released by the Dragons and was registered to amateur Australian rugby league club Southport Tigers but the 32-year-old has now resumed his professional union career in Japan, having signed for Shining Arcs Tokyo-Bay Urayasu ahead of this season.

It has been reported in Australia that Folau is also interested in playing for Tonga at the 2023 World Cup under the new World Rugby eligibility rules allowing players to change the nation they represent after a three-year stand-down period.

Tonga have not yet qualified for the World Cup but are in line to face Ireland in the pool stages if they do, as is expected.


Former Munster boss Rob Penney is the Shining Arcs’ director of rugby, having joined the club after being dismissed by the Waratahs in Australia last year.

Japanese club rugby is heading into a new era this weekend with the launch of the rebranded and restructured League One. The competition was formerly known as the Top League.

The majority of clubs are playing under new or lengthened official names this season as league organisers hope to see each side build a strong connection with its local community.

The Shining Arcs are set to face the Kobe Steelers on Saturday and Folau has been picked at fullback, where he shone for the Wallabies over the course of his 73 Test caps.

Former All Blacks out-half Aaron Cruden has been named in the number 10 shirt for Kobe, while a host of other stars like Samu Kerevi, Malcolm Marx, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Damian McKenzie, Franco Mostert, Marika Koroibete, Quade Cooper, Will Genia, and Patrick Tuipulotu will feature in League One this season.

Former Munster man Paddy Butler will play for Honda Heat after joining them from Yamaha Jubilo.

The opening game of this weekend’s action was set to see the Kubota Spears Funabashi Tokyo Bay take on the Saitama Wild Knights but it was cancelled due to Covid-19 cases in the Wild Knights squad.

The42 Rugby Weekly / SoundCloud

The band is back together as Gavan Casey is joined by Bernard Jackman and Murray Kinsella for the first pod of the new year.

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