Israel Folau signs lucrative deal to play rugby union in Japan

Israel Folau will be a happy man after signing a lucrative contract worth almost $2 million (AUD) to play rugby union in Japan.

The controversial code-hopper will join NTT Communications in the Japanese Top League on a two-year deal worth $1.8 million, according to the Courier Mail.

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The deal will see Folau earn a massive salary of $900,000 a season.

The paycheck is a stunning change of fortune for the 32-year-old, who stood to make only $200,000 for his return to rugby league with the Southport Tigers in the Gold Coast competition.

Folau’s surprising move to Japan was announced earlier this week and even caught his biggest supporter off guard.

The Gold Coast Bulletin reported the move even shocked billionaire Clive Palmer, who was backing Folau’s league return, with a Palmer United Party spokesman labelling Folau’s defection “bulls***” before being supplied the official press release.

Israel Folau’s plans to play rugby league for the Southport Tigers are up in the air. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images

Folau was meant to debut for the Southport Tigers in the Gold Coast A-grade competition after securing a release from former UK Super League club Catalans Dragons, with whom he was engaged in a contract dispute.

Folau and Palmer even reportedly started legal action against the Queensland Rugby League about clearing the 32-year-old to play.

The cross-code star has been cleared to suit up for the Tigers and play rugby league this weekend, but it's yet to be confirmed if Folau will do so following this latest defection back to rugby union.

Folau has had no problem hopping codes. He started in the NRL with the Storm and Broncos before joining the GWS Giants in the AFL, then becoming a dual international in rugby union.

His Wallabies career ended following a homophobic social media post storm that saw his contract torn up in 2019, followed by a prolonged legal battle with Rugby Australia.

He then turned up with Catalans in the 13-man game overseas, before looking to return to Australia to play rugby league.

Folau has reportedly been in discussions with Japanese clubs for months.

Folau will return to the 15-man game after he ended his stint with the Catalans Dragons. (Photo by RAYMOND ROIG / AFP)Source:AFP

He reportedly told his inner circle he was genuinely interested in returning to the NRL.

But once the St George Illawarra Dragons and Brisbane Broncos turned him down, Folau turned his attention to an opportunity in Japan.

The Courier Mail reports while Japanese clubs are considered to be more tolerant of a person’s views, at least two teams would not entertain the idea of offering a deal to Folau.

The footy veteran has an incredible pedigree in the 15-man code as one of only two Wallabies to win the John Eales Medal three times, alongside current skipper Michael Hooper.

The dual international representative was sacked by Rugby Australia in 2019 for saying “hell awaits” gay people and others he considers sinners.

He scored 37 tries in 73 rugby union Tests for the Wallabies before being dumped.

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