'We'd love to have him': Tonga opens door for Israel Folau as brother vies for Cup squad

Tonga coach Toutai Kefu has been in contact with Israel Folau's camp about enticing the sacked Wallabies star to switch allegiances and turn out in the 2023 World Cup for the Pacific nation, who are likely to select Folau's brother John for this year's to

The Sydney Morning Herald revealed this week John Folau had backflipped on a deal to return to rugby league after asking the Waratahs for a release because of "personal reasons", believed to be related to his brother's controversial sacking.

The 24-year-old told Blacktown Workers, the feeder club for Manly, he would lace the boots this weekend for them but then told club officials he had decided to instead concentrate on his rugby.

The younger Folau brother, who came within a whisker of making his Super Rugby debut earlier this year, has been in contact with the Tongan national side and is keen to feature in his first Rugby World Cup beginning in September.

While that in itself comes as a surprise, the bigger shock is that Kefu has spoken to the Folau camp about the possibility of trying to get him qualified for the 2023 World Cup in France.

Given Folau has already represented Australia, he cannot switch immediately and play for another country.

However, there is a little-known loophole Folau could use to his advantage. He would have to sit out international rugby for three years and then participate in a Olympic sevens qualifying tournament to have any chance of making a shock switch.

Kefu has not spoken to the 30-year-old directly about such a prospect but hinted that contact had been made with team Folau.

"We'd love to have him … the next World Cup he'd be available for us hopefully." Kefu told the Sydney Morning Herald. "It's a long time away, so we'll let the dust settle a bit after his most recent issues. We don't even know if he's going to play again.

"He hasn't indicated where he is going, so we'll wait until the dust settles and then look at those options.

"He'd have to sit out three years and then even after that we'd have to re-qualify him through a sevens Olympic qualifying tournament."

The bond John and Israel share could see the latter try and play alongside his brother on the international stage, if all things go to plan. However, a stint in the UK or France beforehand is the most likely option at this stage.

Meanwhile, Kefu said the younger Folau was set to be named in Tonga's World Cup squad within the next week.

The plan is for him to feature at the Pacific Nations Cup, which begins next month, with Tonga facing Samoa, Japan and Canada.

Kefu said he hadn't seen a whole lot of John Folau in action but was eager to get him some game time in a bid to get him involved for a maiden Rugby World Cup.

"He's definitely on our radar and we've already spoken to him," Kefu said. "I've actually never seen him play but I've got a playing history of him. We're going to look at him and even may take him to the PNC because we've got some holes in our squad, especially out wide in the backs. There's a good chance he will be part of that squad.

"You look at what he has done; he's played in the NRL for a couple of years and he's been on the fringe of Super Rugby for a couple of years. He definitely qualifies because he's got a Tongan passport.

"If he's played in those competitions before he's certainly good enough to have a trial for us and then we can see whether he is good enough to be part of that Rugby World Cup squad."