Tongan rugby league coach Kristian Woolf has revealed why he passed on former Wallabies star Israel Folau for the upcoming World Cup 9s and international tests.
Tongan National Rugby League chairman George Koloamatangi announced last month that Folau, and brother John, will pull on the red of Tonga in the Oceania Cup.
But complications due to the Rugby League International Federation's suspension of Tonga meant Folau's return to league was blocked.
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Koloamatangi and secretary William Edwards were later stood down by the RLIF while players like Andrew Fifita and Jason Taumalolo refused to play while the pair remain involved with the team.
However, Woolf explained that his decision to leave Folau out of the squad had nothing to do with the suspended duo and was solely a football decision.
"'Izzy' is a tremendous athlete and in all my dealings with him he's always been really respectful," Woolf said.
"I've got no reason to think he wouldn't fit into our environment really well.
"But I can only pick a team on what I see right now, and right now in Izzy's case, he hasn't played rugby league in nine years nor any professional sport for six months. For that I couldn't consider him.
"I also wouldn't be doing the right thing or respecting blokes like [outside backs] Michael Jennings, Kotoni Staggs, Konrad Hurrell, even David Fusitu'a and Daniel Tupou who have all been playing and done a job for us."
The NRL has shown no interest in allowing Folau to return to the sport, where he last played with the Brisbane Broncos in 2010.
Folau's multimillion-dollar contract with Rugby Australia was terminated in May over a social media post in which he paraphrased a Bible passage, saying "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters" would go to hell unless they repented.
Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle terminated the Folau's multi-million dollar contract, on the advice of an independent panel, for "high level" breaches of the player's code of conduct.
Folau is currently in the midst of a legal battle with Rugby Australia over that decision.