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Israel Folau looks set to make his return to rugby union's international stage.
The 33-year-old has officially been included in Tonga’s squad for the upcoming Pacific Nations Cup and World Cup qualifiers.
Folau hasn't played international rugby since 2019 when his Wallabies contract was terminated following a series of homophobic social media posts.
Now, three years on, and the cross-code athlete has been named in Tonga's 31-man squad – meaning there is a chance, albeit a slim chance, that he could take on Australia at some point in the future.
Tonga boast a strong team with former All Black Charles Piutau also named on the roster.
But there's no denying that the biggest talking point from the team announcement is the inclusion of Folau
“He's going to bring a lot of experience to the table,” Tonga coach Toutai Kefu told ABC Radio Australia.
“His presence is going to be one of the most exciting factors we‘re looking forward to.
“It would have been at least a couple of years ago that we started having conversations about him possibly representing Ikale Tahi.
“It was quite informal back then — it was just an informal chat — and then, as his three-year stand-down approached, when that was going to finish there was a possibility of him playing Sevens to qualify for us and he was open to that.
“But then, fortunately, they changed that rule in November and he didn‘t need to go through that route anymore. All he had to do was stand those three years down and he would qualify straight away.
“He has a whole new set of skills that we haven‘t had before.
“Things seem to be coming together at the right time.
“We‘ve still go some more individuals to come into the squad, so it’s only going to get better.”
Folau has pulled on the green and gold Wallabies jersey 73 times, bagging 37 tries and scoring 185 points.
But thanks to World Rugby’s recent changes to its eligibility laws, the fullback is allowed to change allegiances.
At one point, though, Folau's actions away from the footy field landed him in so much trouble that it looked like he'd never get an opportunity at international union ever again.
In 2019, during his time with the Wallabies, Rugby Australia launched an official investigation after a series of homophobic social media posts came from Folau's account.
He was warned, but ultimately did it again, forcing the sport's governing body to rip up his multi-million-dollar contract on the spot.
Folau is currently plying his trade for the Shining Arcs in Japan, but made a name for himself for the Waratahs in the Super Rugby competition.
In his 96 appearances for the New South Wales side, be crossed the line a whopping 60 times which is still a Super Rugby record to this day.
Prior to that, Folau was carving it up in the NRL before jumping over to the AFL to join the Greater Western Sydney Giants in their inaugural season.
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