LONDON: Wakefield coach Chris Chester says he is under strict orders not to speak about the Catalans Dragons’ controversial signing of Israel Folau ahead of the clubs’ Super League match on Sunday.
The French rugby league team caused a furore when they handed a 12-month contract to Folau, who was sacked by Australia rugby union bosses last year for posting homophobic comments on social media.
Super League chiefs voted unanimously on Wednesday for more powers to stop future controversial signings but the saga is set to drag on.
Huddersfield cancelled their scheduled weekly pre-match press conference on the advice of Super League ahead of their visit to the Catalans a week ago and Chester was told not to answer questions from the media on the subject at Thursday’s conference.
“I’ve been strictly told by the people above and by Super League not to make any comment on anything to do with the gentleman from Catalans and I won’t be making any comment on it,” Chester said.
“My hands are tied at this moment in time. Whether that changes over the coming weeks, I don’t know but I’m under strict guidelines here from my chairman and my CEO and also from Super League.”
Wakefield captain Jacob Miller was a little more forthcoming, referring to the club’s support of former team-mate Keegan Hirst, the only openly gay player in professional rugby league, who has condemned Folau’s arrival in the competition.
Asked if he was surprised by the level of controversy, Miller said: “Not really, especially with us having Keegan Hirst last year. It’s something we’re pretty supportive of as a club.”
Miller said the former Wallabies full-back would be a potential handful if he made his debut on Sunday.
“He’ll be a massive threat,” he said. “He’s a massive kick target and a big human out on the edges. Hopefully he has another week off.”
Folau has been training with his new team-mates after flying in from Australia last weekend and, although he has not played any kind of rugby for 10 months, the Dragons are short of outside backs.
Coach Steve McNamara, who has warned that Folau will need time to re-adjust to rugby league after being out of the game for 10 years, will provide an indication of his plans when he names his 21-man squad on Friday.
Wakefield are to hold a celebration of inclusivity when the Catalans visit.
Wigan responded to Folau’s signing by declaring a Pride Day when the Dragons travel to the DW Stadium on March 22.