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Folau 'grateful' for Catalans chance as Super League clubs hold talks

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London (AFP)

Israel Folau says he is "grateful" to be at Super League outfit Catalans Dragons as the competition's clubs held talks on Wednesday over the controversial signing of the dual-code international.

The French rugby league club have been heavily criticised for signing the 30-year-old, who was sacked last year by Australian rugby union chiefs over his highly publicised homophobic views.

Folau, who arrived in Perpignan at the weekend to begin training with his new teammates ahead of Sunday's round two fixture at Wakefield, said he was raring to get started.

"I'm excited to be back playing the game that I grew up playing," Folau said.

"It's been 10 years since I last played rugby league and I'm grateful for the opportunity to be part of a great organisation, a great team in the Catalans Dragons."

Coach Steve McNamara admitted the club had expected the signing of Folau to be controversial.

But he added: "Having spent a lot of time speaking to him and understanding him a lot more, and getting the reassurances we did, we made a decision as a club that we would support the signing of Israel and give him another opportunity in our game."

Dragons chairman Bernard Guasch was conspicuous by his absence at a meeting of Super League clubs in the northern English city of Salford on Wednesday, where the hot topic for discussion was the signing of Folau.

The other clubs had specifically requested the presence of Guasch after he ignored the will of both Super League and the Rugby Football League in signing Folau.

Hull KR chairman Neil Hudgell wrote a letter to the Dragons warning them of possible legal consequences in the event of his club losing out financially due to the presence in Super League of Folau.

Guasch, who has defended his club's decision to hand Folau a 12-month contract, was expected to attend the regular meeting but had not arrived when it got under way at 1000GMT.

Folau, who scored 37 tries in 73 Test appearances for the Wallabies, was dismissed last May after a social media post warning "hell awaits" gay people.

Rugby Australia in December reached mediated agreement to end Folau's lawsuit over his sacking but the financial terms of the deal were confidential.

Folau had been demanding Aus$14 million (US$9.5 million) in compensation, claiming he was unlawfully dismissed under legislation that bans sacking someone because of their religion.

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