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Rugby league's international body insists actions against Tongan board had nothing to do with Israel Folau

Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter Beattie denies the decision to suspend Tonga's international membership was based on an attempt to block Israel Folau's return to the code.

Folau will not be considered by the Mate Ma'a and a host of NRL stars including Jason Taumalolo, Andrew Fifita and Siosiua Taukeiaho will abandon plans to boycott the World Nines and upcoming Tests after a dramatic meeting of the Rugby League International Federation board on Thursday.

The international governing body voted to suspend the Tongan National Rugby League's membership, siding with the country's players and the Pacific Island nation's government in a bitter dispute.

The RLIF is expected to appoint an interim board in the coming days.

The country's clubs have registered Tonga Ma'a Tonga Rugby League, which has the backing of the Tonga Sports Council and the nation's NRL players, and it is expected to take over the administration of the Mate Ma'a.

Kristian Woolf, whose sacking led to 27 players threatening to refuse to turn out for the Mate Ma'a and calling for the TNRL board to stand down, will also be reinstated.

Given Woolf has the likes of Will Hopoate, Michael Jennings, Daniel Tupou, Kotoni Staggs and David Fusitu'a at his disposal, Folau will not be considered for selection.

While the result of the RLIF's decision is that Folau's return to league will be blocked, ARLC chairman and RLIF deputy chairman Beattie said that was never the intention.

"Israel Folau's name wasn't even mentioned. Because this has never been about him, it's been about resolving this internal dispute in Tonga," Beattie said.

Folau was sacked by Rugby Australia earlier in the year after he refused to remove anti-homosexual social media posts.

Beattie and NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg refused to consider Folau for NRL registration after he walked out on the game for AFL in 2010 and because they were wary of him reoffending and damaging relationships with sponsors.

The issue came to a head this week after Tonga Prime Minister Semisi Sika wrote to the RLIF to state that the TNRL had lost the support of the government, the country's players and clubs.

"We want Tonga's best team on the park and we support the NRL's best Tongan players," Beattie said.

The TNRL now has seven days to launch an appeal.

Greenberg, who is also on the RLIF board, said that once an alternative board is in place, Tonga would be able to appear at the upcoming World Nines - a tournament which is run by the NRL.

"It is clear the current board does not have the support of its national government or its best players,'' Greenberg said.

"We are working with the RLIF to recognise an alternate structure that provides an opportunity for Tonga to field its best team."

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The RLIF's decisions could have far-reaching ramifications for the Pacific team. Source: Breakfast


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