Israel Folau could be taking on the Wallabies if Tonga’s coach, Toutai Kefu, gets a plan over the line for his team to take on Australia in Brisbane next year.
Kefu is driving a push for Tonga to play a match to mark the 50-year anniversary of the Pacific Island nation’s famous 16-11 upset triumph over the Wallabies in Ballymore in 1973.
The former Wallabies forward told Fox Sports that his plan had received some support from Rugby Australia but given it’s a World Cup year, it’s going to be hard to find a gap in an already crowded schedule.
Folau is eligible to play for Tonga after World Rugby changed its eligibility rules to now allow players to switch nations after a three-year gap. The former John Eales Medallist has not played a Test since the last of his 73 appearances for Australia in 2019.
The 33-year-old former Waratah, who started his career in the NRL and had an ill-fated stint in the AFL, is plying his trade in Japan’s club competition for the Shining Arcs after his controversial split from Rugby Australia over his homophobic social media posts which he claimed were merely him stating his religious beliefs.
“I mentioned that to him and his eyes lit up at the chance of playing the Wallabies,” Kefu told Fox Sports about his conversation with Folau.
“Putting this team together for next year, a lot of the other players, players like Charles Piutau, I saw George Moala and Pita Ahki on Wednesday, Malakai Fekitoa, they all keep asking, is Izzy going to play? And I’ve said to them, of course, he’s bought in.
“That  team, they still talk about that side in the streets and the bars, to beat the Wallabies back then was something else, so it would have been a fantastic opportunity to celebrate it.
“It would have been great timing before the World Cup. It would be a great occasion to celebrate Tongan Rugby Union history.”
The Western Force will be aiming to overcome a COVID-19 disruption and the heartbreak of their two most recent losses when they take on the NSW Waratahs in Perth on Saturday night.
Force coach Tim Sampson, Wallabies enforcer Izack Rodda, and scrumhalf Issak Fines-Leleiwasa are isolating and will miss the match after being deemed close contacts. The Perth-based franchise are in desperate need of a win after their one-point losses to the Melbourne Rebels and Brumbies left them clinging to eighth spot with a 2-5 record.
Given the Force’s hardest part of the fixture lays ahead of them, a win is a must against the Waratahs. NSW (4-3) moved up to fifth spot following their 38-14 win over Fijian Drua before the bye.
The Waratahs have been bolstered by the return of captain Jake Gordon from a hamstring injury, while Michael Hooper is in the starting side for the first time this season after making an appearance via the bench against the Drua.
The Force’s poor starts against the Rebels and Brumbies proved costly. The Brumbies led 20-3 after 17 minutes, while the Rebels opened up a 13-0 lead after 20 minutes before the Force kicked into gear.
Force forward Brynard Stander said there had been a focus on fixing the poor starts. “It’s obviously been really narrow, the margins,” Stander said.
“It’s important we stay together as a group regardless of the results. The Tahs are a quality side. They’ve shown that in the last four or five weeks.
“But we’ve also shown we’re a quality side. Tomorrow night’s difference is going to be who wants it more. I think there’s a lot of fire in our bellies at the moment.”
Force vice-captain Kyle Godwin will notch his 100th Super Rugby appearance when he steps out against the Waratahs.
Force attack coach Mark Ozich will take charge in Sampson’s absence, while captain Feleti Kaitu’u and winger Toni Pulu have been named to return to the starting line-up.
Rugby Australia should lay out the welcome mat for former Wallabies coach Eddie Jones after next year’s World Cup, according to former skipper Phil Kearns.
Jones is almost certain to be shown the door by England after guiding them to the 2023 tournament and Kearns told the Sydney Morning Herald that he thinks the 62-year-old would be the ideal candidate for a senior role Down Under, particularly in ushering through the next generation of Wallabies.
“Eddie is a really good bloke and an amazing coach. I think Eddie would be fabulous in dealing with the rugby youth of our nation, the up-and-coming players,” Kearns said.
“I think he builds resilience in players. He’s not easy with them and I think we all know that. He’s tough.
“He demands excellence and that can only be good for players on the way through. I think it would be awesome if Eddie had a role in the future of Australian rugby.”