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Folau to miss out on World Cup as Tonga announce 32-man squad

BY Jack Tunney  ·  Monday Aug 21, 2023

Tonga have announced a 32-man squad for the upcoming World Cup, with the option to add one more player to the roster. The squad is packed full of talent, with the likes of former Exeter Chief, Solomone Kata, and former Bristol Bears player, Charles Piutau, making the squad.

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The big news is, of course, the sizeable gap in the shape of Israel Folau. The former Australian international misses out on selection as he has failed to recover from injury.

Folau was expected to create a huge impact for Tonga when World Rugby approved a significant adjustment to its international eligibility criteria a couple of years ago. The eligibility criteria stated that if a player has not been selected for their national team within the last three years, and has a parent or grandparent born in the country they wish to represent, or are born in that country,  then they are eligible to swap teams.

“Isileli Folau (knee) and Telusa Veainu (hamstring) have suffered recurrences of existing injuries and will be unavailable for the tournament,” the Tonga Rugby Union said in a statement.

“This is the squad that will be taking us to the 2023 Rugby World Cup,” said Head coach Toutai Kefu. “It’s a squad I’m very proud to coach and I know all the players are looking forward to representing their families and all Tongans around the globe with pride”.

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“Unfortunately a couple of our brothers, Isileli Folau and Telusa Veainu, won’t be joining us to due to existing injuries. George Moala, with the reduction of his suspension to 5 weeks, will be able to join the squad mid-campaign.”

Folau, was at one stage considered by many to be one of the best fullbacks in the world. However in 2019, he was sacked by Rugby Australia following a series of controversial social media posts, in which he was deemed to have made homophobic and transphobic remarks.

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