Tonga offer Israel Folau international lifeline

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Israel Folau has been offered a route back to international rugby with Tonga.

Folau currently finds himself in the wilderness after his contracts with both Rugby Australia and club side Waratahs were terminated after he posted controversial comments on social media in April.

The 30-year-old has since instigated legal action against the governing body and is understood to be demanding damages in the region of 10 million Australian dollars.

There is, however, an international lifeline for Folau, should he wish to choose it, being offered by Tonga coach and 60-times capped former Wallaby Toutai Kefu.

Although Folau has represented Australia, there is a loophole that would allow him to play for Tonga.

Folau would have to sit out international rugby for three years before taking part in an Olympic sevens qualifying tournament, which in turn would allow him to compete in the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, Kefu said: “We’d love to have him … the next World Cup he’d be available for us hopefully.

“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.”

A factor behind any potential decision is that Folau’s brother, John, is set to be named in Tonga’s World Cup squad over the next few days.

Provided by Press Association Sport

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Tickets for 50th anniversary of Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens now on sale

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International pop star Kylie Minogue has been confirmed to perform at this year’s Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens, as the largest sporting and social event in Dubai celebrates its 50th anniversary with a concert on Friday, December 6

Taking place at The Sevens Stadium, the Grammy Award-winning superstar will take to the stage at 9.30 pm to perform a series of hits from her 30-year career.

For only AED400 to attend on Friday or AED500 for the entire weekend, fans can enjoy a 50th anniversary extravaganza, on top of a performance by this world-renowned icon on the Friday night. Tickets are now available at www.dubairugby7s.com and are expected to sell out fast!

Gary Chapman, President Group Services and dnata, Emirates Group, said: “As the longest running sports event in the Middle East, we want all our fans to celebrate our 50 year milestone in style.

“As well as three days of the best Rugby Sevens in the world, plenty of family and kids’ activities and hospitality, we’re incredibly excited to bring one of the most successful artists in history to the stage.

From what started 50 years ago at the Dubai Exiles RFC, the Dubai Rugby Sevens has grown into one of the world’s premier sporting events, hosting the first leg of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series and the second leg of the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series.

It also plays host to an ever-popular and growing international Invitation Tournament, featuring rugby and netball teams from all over the world, with over 300 teams participating across all age groups.

This year’s Dubai Rugby Sevens is expected to be another thrilling weekend with free entry for all ages on Thursday and free entry all weekend for those under 12 with plenty to keep everyone entertained.

Taking place from Thursday, December 5 to Saturday, December 7 at The Sevens Stadium, fans can now purchase their tickets online at www.dubairugby7s.com.

Travel packages for international visitors are also available and can be viewed at www.dubairugby7s.com/holidays

TICKET PRICES

Thursday, 5 December – free admission

Friday, 6 December – Dubai Rugby Sevens & Concert – in advance AED 400, on the day AED 500

Saturday, 7 December – in advance AED 300, on the day AED 400

Season Tickets (Friday and Saturday) – in advance AED 500, on the day AED600

Children under 12 receive free entry all weekend

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Warren Gatland announced as Lions head coach for 2021 South Africa tour

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Warren Gatland

Warren Gatland has been officially unveiled as the British and Irish Lions head coach for the 2021 tour to South Africa.

Gatland will relinquish his role as Wales boss after the World Cup and will then start his official Lions duties in August 2020.

The 55-year-old will lead the Lions for the third consecutive tour, having assisted Sir Ian McGeechan in South Africa in 2009 before winning the 2013 series in Australia and drawing with New Zealand in 2017.

“I’m hugely honoured and delighted to lead the Lions again,” said Gatland.

“It is exciting and a great challenge to coach the best players from the four Home Nations.

“The Lions rightly have a truly special place in the game and I jumped at the chance to be involved again when I was approached about the role.

“South Africa is a special place to play rugby.

“They have some of the most iconic stadiums in the world which will be packed full of passionate fans, and the Springboks have shown in recent times that they are back to being one of the dominant forces in the game.

“Having toured there in 2009 I know the scale of the task ahead of us – playing in South Africa presents a number of unique challenges such as playing at altitude, while the Boks will always be physical, aggressive and highly motivated.

“History tells you it’s a tough place to tour, but I am 100 per cent confident that we can go there and win. I would not be here if I thought differently.

“I’m delighted to now have everything in place to begin full-time in August 2020 as that gives me the best possible chance to plan for South Africa, but for the time being my focus is entirely on the Rugby World Cup and delivering a successful campaign for Wales.”

Gatland has committed himself fully to the Lions until after the 2021 tour.

The in-demand boss’ long-term future remains up for debate, but he will first bid to leave Wales on a high at the World Cup.

Gatland has coached Wales since 2008, and now has the chance to become the first Lions head coach to remain unbeaten on tours to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

He revealed he had “unfinished business” in South Africa, who won the 2009 series 2-1.

“Being a part of the Lions is an opportunity to go to South Africa and finish some unfinished business. We spoke about the potential and I couldn’t turn my back on the challenge,” he said.

But the New Zealander admitted this would be his last tour as Lions head coach.

When asked if it would be his final one, he said: “I think so, yeah.”

Lions managing director Ben Calveley described Gatland as a “world-class coach” with a “proven track record”, who “knows the Lions better than anyone else currently coaching in world rugby”.

“This was a unanimous decision from the Lions board and it was important that we moved swiftly and proactively to secure Warren’s signature,” he said.

“Appointing him two years ahead of time ensures Warren can also be involved in planning the logistics and scheduling elements of the tour. I’m looking forward to working alongside him to give the Lions the best chance of success in South Africa.

“The supporters are central to what make the Lions special, and with the world’s finest coach at the helm, excitement will grow even further.”

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