AAP Rugby

Folau deserves second chance: Catalans

By AAP Newswire

After finally naming Israel Folau in his Catalans squad, Super League coach Steve McNamara says his controversial recruit deserves a second chance and should not face a "life sentence" for his homophobic comments.

McNamara defended Folau after the ex-Wallabies and NRL star moved a step closer to making his Super League debut when he was named in the Dragons' 21-man squad for their round three match against Castleford in Perpignan on Sunday (AEDT).

The French club caused a furore when they ignored the Super League and the Rugby Football League's pleas by signing Folau on a one-year deal after he was sacked by Rugby Australia in May for claiming "Hell awaits" gay people on social media.

But as Folau looked set to play his first rugby league game in 10 years McNamara claimed he had no problem with the 30-year-old, saying if he had reservations he would not have offered him a contract.

"From the outside you know the headline, not the person," he told BBC Sport.

"My job was to find out about the person, the complete person. I did that with thorough detail.

"If I had (reservations), I wouldn't have signed him.

Super League clubs were livid over Folau's Catalans deal and recently voted at a meeting last week to implement measures that gave them more power to veto "controversial" signings in future.

And some of Catalans' rivals have organised LGBT celebrations at their home games when the Dragons visit.

But McNamara claimed Folau was a "good personality" and had created "positivity" in his Dragons squad since his arrival.

"I (believe) he deserved the opportunity, it shouldn't be a life sentence what he was given," he said of Folau's signing.

"We researched Izzy as a person completely, as a coach my decision was based around his rugby league ability, his ability to add positivity to the dressing room and to really increase our opportunities of winning.

"It was based around that and him being a good personality."

Catalans star and England international Sam Tomkins said Dragons teammates had already accepted Folau after the dual international showed "what sort of person he is" upon his arrival.

"We wanted Izzy to come in and prove what sort of person he is, he came in spoke to everybody on the first day and trained brilliantly since," he said.

"He put his position across, (he was) very open, not hiding anything and he said if anyone wanted to speak about anything at all, he's more than willing.

"All the boys know they've got that if they need to, he's very approachable."