• AFP-JIJI

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Israel Folau, who was fired by Rugby Australia in 2019 for saying “hell awaits” gay people, will play in Japan next season, it was announced Monday.

Folau has signed to play for the Chiba-based NTT Communications Shining Arcs in Japan’s premier domestic competition when it starts its new season in January 2022, the Japan Rugby Football Union announced.

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 Catalan 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.

Folau 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 fired, then returned to league play in February last year with the Dragons.

Rugby Australia’s sacking of Folau in 2019 sparked a long-running legal dispute that was eventually settled when they made a multi-million dollar out-of-court payment.

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

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