New South Wales, Australia (4E Sports) – The struggling New South Wales Waratahs have signed center Israel Folau to a six-month deal worth $250,000 to play in next year’s Super Rugby championship.
Folau earlier confirmed rumors that he will not be returning to the rugby league with the Parramatta Eels.
Folau also defended his decision to sign with the Waratahs, saying he did not do it for the money.
“If I was in it for the money I could have stayed in the AFL. It wasn’t even about the money. Here I am here with the Waratahs. I walked away from the AFL deal which was massive,” Folau said.
“When I left (AFL) my first preference was to come back and play rugby league,” Folau explained. “Things didn’t work out the way I would have liked but when I met with Michael things felt right for me.”
Given there is no foreign player at the Waratahs and the ARU were not interested in paying Folau a top-up, they may have been allowed to cap him under that guise.
Folau joins the Waratahs’ “Team Tonga”, which includes Wycliff Palu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Sekope Kepu and brothers Sitaleki and Lopeti Timani.
He is expected to start training with new teammates immediately and will be available in their February trials against Melbourne in Hobart, and then the Crusaders on Valentine’s Day in Sydney.
Australian Rugby Union (ARU) acting CEO Matt Carroll said Folau’s presence in the Waratahs squad in 2013 would provide an exciting addition to the Super Rugby landscape.
“ARU has supported the Waratahs in their recruitment of a player whose profile and natural athleticism has the potential to deliver a further X-factor to the Waratahs next year,” Carroll said.
Meanwhile, Folau also expressed interest in playing for the Wallabies or the Australian national rugby team.
“Everyone wants to represent their country and that’s an exciting time. First of all I’ve just got to worry about playing good footy with the Waratahs and that will come afterwards,” Folau said.