Former captain Aleki Lutui says controversial star Israel Folau would be welcomed into Tonga’s Test set-up in the lead-up to the 2023 World Cup.
The 32-year-old was handed his marching orders by Rugby Australia back in 2019 following a drawn-out and very public investigation over homophobic social media posts.
Following much speculation that Folau might represent Tonga in Rugby League, World Rugby’s change in eligibility laws means he can now return to rugby union and play Test rugby for Tonga.
And according to Lutui, Folau would be a welcome addition to Tonga’s squad for next year’s World Cup in France.
“I think Tonga will welcome back Folau, especially as his parents are from Tonga. I think he will be proud to represent the country if he is given that opportunity,” Lutui told The Rugby Paper.
“If we get all our players available, we could be a force at the 2023 World Cup. Especially if our backs put their hands up and make themselves available, I think we can compete,” he added.
“But it is all down to individual player decision, if they make themselves available, I am sure they will give everything for our country.
“If we have the likes of Charles Piutau, Malakai Fekitoa, Ngani Laumape and Folau available it will be huge.”
Other players that have recently confirmed they are switching nations are Nathan Hughes (from England to Fiji), Jeff Toomaga-Allen (New Zealand to Samoa), Taqele Naiyaravoro (Australia to Fiji) and Alex Muller (Argentina to USA).