Israel Folau last played rugby league for Brisbane Broncos in 2010
Toulouse (France) (AFP) - Former Wallaby Israel Folau said on Friday he had thought about retiring after he was sacked last May by Rugby Australia over a homophobic social media post.
Folau, 30, who scored 37 tries in 73 Test appearances, is set to make his debut for rugby league side Catalans Dragons this weekend after the French club handed him a one-year contract.
His arrival in Super League has been met with condemnation from other clubs and sparked a rule change to allow the competition to prevent “controversial signings” in the future.
“I thought about ending my career and doing something else so I thank the president and the coach for the opportunity they’ve given me,” Folau told Perpignan-based newspaper l’Independant.
“It’s a big chance for me because I didn’t think I would play rugby league again and discover France and its culture.”
Folau returns to the 13-a-side code on Saturday against Castleford after a decade playing Australian rules football and rugby union.
“I’m very excited to get back to the sport which I broke out in. It’s been 10 years since I last played rugby league and I’m also very nervous,” Folau said in comments translated from French.
“But the environment is favourable between the coaching staff and the players for me to play as well as I can.
“It’s going to be a big challenge for me. It’s been 10 years and I’m looking forward to returning,” he added.
Folau, a dual code international, was fired last May by Rugby Australia over a social media post warning “hell awaits” gay people and others he considers sinners.
Dragons coach Steve McNamara said Folau “deserves” a second chance.
“I felt it was right and he deserved the opportunity, it shouldn’t be a life sentence what he was given,” he told the BBC.