Controversial rugby star Folau, who said ‘hell awaits’ gay people, signs for Japan side
Published: Jul 05, 2021 04:48 PM
Dual-code international Israel Folau, who was sacked by Rugby Australia in 2019 for saying "hell awaits" gay people, will play club rugby in Japan next season, it was announced Monday. 

Folau has signed with the NTT Communications Shining Arcs in the premier domestic competition when it starts its new season in January 2022.

At his new club, based in Chiba near Tokyo, he will be coached by Rob Penney, who was sacked by NSW Waratahs in March after a nightmare five-loss start to the Super Rugby AU season.

Folau was released "with immediate effect" by French rugby league side Catalans Dragons last week.

The 32-year-old had informed the club he wanted to stay in Australia for what the Dragons said was "a personal family situation," and also play for small-town club Southport Tigers alongside his two ­brothers.

His push to join Southport is being backed by mining billionaire Clive Palmer, who has threatened legal action against anyone who challenges Folau's right to play.

Folau - an ardent Christian - was a star NRL player early in his career, then switched to rugby union after an unsuccessful stint playing Australian Rules.

He scored 37 tries in 73 rugby union Tests for the Wallabies before being dumped over a social media post warning "hell awaits" gay people and others he considers sinners.

His comments drew a stern rebuke from Japan captain Michael Leitch, who called them "outrageous" in a video posted on social media in April 2019.

"It's so wrong on so many levels," Leitch said then.

"I respect your religion and what you believe in, but using social media to almost preach your views - it connects to so many people, and everyone's not the same."

Rugby Australia's sacking of Folau sparked a long-running legal dispute that was eventually settled when they made a multi-million dollar out-of-court payment.

Folau said he had been "vindicated" by the settlement, after challenging his dismissal under laws that disallow sackings because of a person's religion. He returned to the league in February last year with the Dragons.

In his latest battle, Folau this month applied for a Supreme Court injunction against Queensland Rugby League in a bid to resume his career in Australia, claiming its refusal to register him amounted to a restraint of trade.