IT HAS been almost three weeks since his controversial signing but Israel Folau will finally make his Catalans Dragons debut tomorrow – and Castleford Tigers will be ready for him.
The dual-code Australia international, 30, has been named in Catalans’ 21-man squad ahead of their game in Perpignan and the French club say he will play. Folau – who scored 37 tries in 73 Tests for the Wallabies – was sacked by Rugby Australia last May having said “hell awaits” gay people in a social media post.
The versatile back, who is expected to line up at centre, has not played since and has not featured in rugby league since leaving Brisbane Broncos in 2010.
Folau was deemed not ready to feature at Wakefield Trinity on Sunday, a game which was duly postponed due to Storm Ciara.
However, Castleford – who have already beaten Toronto Wolfpack and their dual-code superstar Sonny Bill Williams – will now take him on as they look to maintain their 100 per cent winning start to the season.
Coach Daryl Powell said: “We’re going to try and make him rusty. He’s a big athletic player so similar to Sonny Bill Williams if not in the same position.
It is a bit of the unknown so we have had a look at some footage of him, looking at his right foot step which is dominant.Daryl Powell
“It is a bit of the unknown so we have had a look at some footage of him, looking at his right foot step which is dominant. Obviously if Israel Folau is going to play – and I think he will – he hasn’t played rugby league for 10 years.
“So, you want to see if he’s still any good at it. I think we’ll have a good go at that.”
Folau’s signing on a 12-month deal caused a furore and incensed many in the sport.
The spotlight will be on tomorrow’s fixture but Powell maintains his side will not give the player – who made his name at Melbourne Storm and for Queensland State of Origin before switching to Aussie Rules – any special attention. “Our plans aren’t going to change too much,” he said.
“We think we know the way he’s going to play. We’re not specifically putting him under pressure but have looked at him and how him coming in will impact Catalans. We’ve got some smart centres and it’ll be interesting to see what they throw up out on the edges.
“We’ve had a look at their one game (against Huddersfield Giants) but obviously they lost it; they haven’t got into any groove yet so it’s hard for us to look too much into them.”
Castleford have George Griffin and Tyla Hepi plus England second-row Mike McMeeken back from injury.
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