Israel Folau: Catalans Dragons sign former Australia rugby union player
Shortly after Folau's signing confirmed, Wigan announce match vs Catalans on March 22 would be 'Pride Day' as Warriors "look to support the LGBTQ+ community"
Last Updated: 28/01/20 7:34pm
Israel Folau has joined Super League side Catalans Dragons on a one-year contract following his sacking for anti-LGBT posts on social media.
The announcement of Folau's switch to the French club was followed shortly afterwards on Tuesday by Wigan declaring their home game against the Dragons on March 22 would be a designated 'Pride Day' in "support of the LGBTQ+ community".
Folau reached a settlement with Rugby Australia in December having sued for £7.4m on the grounds of religious discrimination - after his contract was terminated in May.
The 30-year-old scored 37 tries in 73 Test appearances for Australia's rugby union side, but now returns to the code in which he started his professional career.
"I acknowledge the views expressed by Super League and the Rugby Football League," Folau said in a statement.
"I'm a proud Christian, my beliefs are personal, my intention is not to hurt anyone and I will not be making further public comment about them.
"I look forward to my return to the great game of Rugby League with the Catalans Dragons."
Folau began playing in Australia's National Rugby League aged 17 in 2007 and went on to score 73 tries in 91 games in the competition.
After a two-year spell in Australian Rules football, he switched to rugby union in 2013, winning the Wallabies player of the year award three times, before his career was derailed by his off-field conduct.
"We want to give Israel a new opportunity to shine on the pitch," Catalans Dragons chairman Bernard Guasch said.
"We do not support or agree with Israel's previously expressed and controversial views which are based upon his sincerely held religious belief. We do not share or condone those views and we are totally committed to our club and our sport being open and welcoming to everyone.
"We do not believe that those views should be publicly expressed, especially by a high-profile sportsperson. We have a signed agreement with the RFL. Any transgression will trigger an immediate termination of Israel's contract and a substantial fine for the club."
I’m shocked and disappointed at the signing of @IzzyFolau. Our great game is tasked with fighting against homophobia and standing up for the values it puts such high stock in. It shows none of the bravery, cameraderie or integrity @rfl expects from its players, staff and fans— Keegan Hirst (@KeeganHirst) January 28, 2020
Folau's signing comes just days before the start of the Super League season, with the Catalans beginning their campaign at home to the Huddersfield Giants on Saturday.
Wigan announce Pride Day v Catalans
Shortly after Folau's signing was confirmed, fellow Super League side Wigan Warriors announced that their game against Catalans Dragons on March 22 would be 'Pride Day' as the Warriors "look to support the LGBTQ+ community".
The Rugby Football League released a statement saying it had faced a "difficult decision" but has confirmed that Folau's registration with the Dragons will not be prevented.
However, his signing has led to strong criticism from both Super League executive chairman Robert Elstone, and out gay Halifax player Keegan Hirst.