Folau scores on Catalans winning debut
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Perpignan (France) (AFP)
Former Wallaby Israel Folau, who was sacked last May by Rugby Australia over a homophobic social media post, scored on his Catalans Dragons debut in Saturday's 36-18 Super League win over Castleford.
Folau, 30, who joined the French side on January 28, crossed after just six minutes having caught a high up and under.
"The plan all along was to get Israel on the field and give him time. I understand the headlines but let him play, let him get on the field and we'll understand the person a little more after that," Dragons coach Steve McNamara told the post-match news conference.
Some fans inside the ground waved rainbow flags to protest the presence of Folau.
"People are judging him on a headline," added McNamara.
"When I sign a player I look at him from a football perspective then I work out what type of person he is. Is he a good person, is he a good player? Will he add value to the team on and off the field?
"I'm not judging him on any political or religious beliefs. We quite clearly do not believe in what he has said, we have made that clear in our club statement."
Folau's name was cheered when it was read out on the sound system at Stade Gilbert Brutus pre-match.
Former Brisbane Broncos star Folau, who was playing his first rugby league match in 10 years, followed Sam Tomkins' early try in the south of France. Tomkins went on to score a hat-trick of tries.
Playing at centre, he almost repeated his try-scoring feat half an hour into the proceedings after claiming a ball in the air but was a yard short of the tryline before he was tackled.
More than 8,000 fans were present as the hosts claimed their maiden win of the campaign in Folau's first game since featuring for Australian rugby union side the Waratahs last April.
However, his arrival in Super League has been met with condemnation from other clubs and sparked a rule change to allow the competition to prevent "controversial signings" in the future.
Wakefield coach Chris Chester said earlier this month he was under strict orders not to speak about Folau's arrival in the league.
Folau, a dual code international who has also played Aussie Rules football, was fired by Rugby Australia after saying "hell awaits" gay people and others he considers sinners.
Folau, who scored 37 tries in 73 Test appearances for the Wallabies, admitted on the eve of Saturday's game he had considered quitting the sport.
"I thought about ending my career and doing something else so I thank the president and the coach for the opportunity they've given me," Folau told Perpignan-based newspaper l'Independant.
"It's a big chance for me because I didn't think I would play rugby league again and discover France and its culture."
© 2020 AFP