Rugby: Israel Folau eyeing Rugby World Cup stint for Tonga - coach

Israel Folau has expressed interest in representing Tonga in rugby union, according to coach Toutai Kefu.

Folau, 32, hasn't kicked a ball in the 15-man code since 2019, when he was sacked by Rugby Australia for a series of homophobic outbursts on social media, breaching his contract with the union.

After legal proceedings and a reported settlement of AU$8m, Folau moved to Europe, where he played one season in the UK Super League for French side Catalans Dragons.

But now back residing in Brisbane - and a free agent - Folau has already had an attempt to return to the NRL knocked back, but has been contacted Kefu about returning to test rugby.

"He's Tongan, he's a bloody good player," Kefu has told RNZ. "We're more than happy to have him and accommodate him."

Kefu adds that the 'Ikale Tahi would have no issues with Folau's social media behaviour, supporting his right to post what he wants. 

"We'd have no concerns. We all grew up the same way.

"We all went to Sunday School and then there's different divisions of religion that we all grew up in. We certainly all support Israel and his views."

The only issue for Folau would be qualifying to represent Tonga, after already playing 73 tests for the Wallabies.

Currently, players must serve a three year stand-down period from their former side, hold a current passport of the country they wish to represent and play in an Olympic sevens qualifying tournament.

Folau last played for the Wallabies in November 2018, meaning he'd be ineligible to play for Tonga until November at the earliest.

Meanwhile, the Olympic sevens qualifying tournament will be held over July 19-20 in Monaco.

If Folau was to miss that, his next opportunity wouldn't be until the 2023 Oceania Sevens Championships in 2023, by which point he would be 34.