Mate Ma'a Tonga players show support for Israel Folau's attempted code swap

Tonga veteran Siliva Havili has backed Israel Folau's desire to turn out for Mate Ma'a Tonga as the controversial cross-code star's fate hangs in the balance.

Folau is hoping to play for Tonga in Tests against Great Britain and Australia next month, in what would be his first top-flight action since being axed by Rugby Australia in May.

The move is expected to be discussed by the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) on Thursday, after they were forced to deny a Tongan press release that claimed Folau had already been given the green light earlier this week.

It remains to be seen whether that approval will be granted, given both Peter Beattie and Todd Greenberg are on the RLIF board and have been vocal in their opposition to Folau's anti-gay messages on social media.

Even if Folau does play, he could remain Tonga's only drawcard in the Tests as 30 of their biggest names remain committed to a boycott after the axing of coach Kristian Woolf.

Havili said he had no issue with Folau stating his desire to play under the current board, and insisted he'd be welcomed into the full squad if the boycott ends.

"I'm for him representing Tonga because of the type of player he is and what he can bring to the team," the Canberra utility said.,
Folau scored 73 tries in 91 NRL games for Melbourne and Brisbane between 2007 and 2010, after debuting as a teenage superstar.

"He has expressed an interest, and I was pretty surprised. Hopefully everything gets sorted and he can come play with our 30-man squad," Havili said.

Meanwhile, the crisis surrounding the Tongan team has shown no signs of letting up, raising serious concerns around the strength of their side for the Rugby League Nines and Tests in New Zealand.

There are just 3-1/2 weeks until the global event at Bankwest Stadium, and they won't have Nines coach Garth Brennan at the helm after he pulled out of the role.

Frank Endacott will at this stage remain in control for the Tests, enraging players after the likes of Andrew Fifita, Jason Taumalolo and Will Hopoate had pledged their Tongan allegiance under Woolf in recent years.

It has prompted the players to call for an immediate change of board and an AGM to be called, or else ending their rise from minnow to a near top-tier nation.

"Hopefully it gets sorted as soon as it can," Havili said.

"The games are getting closer and a lot of the boys have already stopped playing."

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The Rugby League International Federation says Folau can't return because they haven't been asked to consider it. Source: Breakfast

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