Former Australia international Israel Folau has signed a new one-year deal with Catalans Dragons.

Folau made a controversial move to Catalans in January after his Rugby Australia contract was terminated for a "high-level breach", the 31-year-old having posted hell awaits "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters" on Instagram.

The centre, who scored a try on his Super League debut, attracted interest from the NRL and Top 14 but has decided to remain at the Gilbert Brutus Stadium.

Folau said: "Me and my family are very excited to stay on at the club for season 2021.

"We're very grateful for the opportunity that Bernard Guasch [Catalans chairman] and the Dragons have given me. I'm looking forward to working hard and achieving great success on the field with my team-mates and this great club."

Guasch expressed his delight that Folau wants to repay the faith the Perpignan-based club have shown in him.

"His decision to stay at the club for one more season honours him. Once the media storm that followed his signing passed, and after only three Super League appearances, he received many requests and became a highly demanded player," he said.

"But he feels gratitude for the club.  He shown he is a respectful player since he arrived at the club. He will be 32 years old at the end of his new contract and we will then think about the rest of his career."

There has been no Super League action since March due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the season is due to resume on August 2.

Catalans Dragons star James Maloney said he is not considering a short-term NRL return amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Super League has been suspended indefinitely due to the COVID-19 crisis, which has led to more than 126,760 confirmed fatalities worldwide.

While a return date for the Super League is unknown, Australia's NRL is planning to restart on May 28 after the competition was postponed through two rounds on March 23.

Maloney – a Grand Final winner with Sydney Roosters (2013) and Cronulla Sharks (2016) –has been linked with a brief return to the NRL along with Catalans team-mate Israel Folau and Toronto Wolfpack star Sonny-Bill Williams.

But Maloney, who left Penrith Panthers for Catalans this year, has no such plans despite the appeal of a brief homecoming.

"When we thought about it, if you went back home you had to go into quarantine for two weeks, and we've got four kids," he told 2GB Radio.

"It's a hard one. You know, obviously, for us, it'd be nice to go back home.

"But then I think with the announcement [of France's lockdown], I think they also said borders to non-European countries are closed indefinitely, so I don't even know where that would leave you in terms of coming back once it was all over."

Maloney, 33, added: "I don't know logistically how it works.

"I know Catalans are doing their best obviously to be able to keep paying us so I don't know how you could all of a sudden try and work out – even if the NRL did manage to get back – how you'd try and manage a short-term deal.

"I think it's probably more headaches logistically than what it's sort of worth and I just don't think it's possible, so it's probably nothing I've really thought about."

Catalans Dragons captain Remi Casty has declared he will not travel for the club's Super League meeting with Wigan Warriors if Sunday's game goes ahead as planned.

England's premier rugby league competition is one of the few elite sporting divisions in Europe not to cease playing as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Taking such a step is being discussed by clubs at a meeting in Huddersfield on Monday, but Casty insists he will take matters into his own hands due to concerns over those most vulnerable to the illness.

"I'm not sick, I'm not afraid of being either, but I don't want to catch this virus and pass it on to someone more fragile," Casty said, as quoted by Sky Sports.

"You have to be responsible for your actions, it is not a simple flu. We have never known a health crisis of this magnitude.

"I have just warned my team-mates and the staff that I will not be present [on Monday] in training. I made this decision and I will stick to it."

Casty suggested he found what he perceives to be different attitudes towards coronavirus in the UK when set against his homeland tough to understand.

"They said that as long as there was no case in a player, the championship was maintained," the 35-year-old added. "They [UK-based teams] are on an island, maybe they feel more protected than us or superior.

"I have the impression that they are adopting another strategy, hoping that the virus will pass faster than in France. This is only my opinion, in relation to what I read or see."

Catalans home game against Leeds Rhinos was the only scheduled Super League and Challenge Cup encounter not to proceed last weekend after Leeds opted not to travel on account of one of their players displaying coronavirus symptoms.

The unnamed player's test subsequently came back negative and the Rhinos, who could still face action from the Rugby Football League (RFL) for failing to fulfil the fixture, have resumed training.

On Monday. Catalans closed their club offices in line with a French government directive to close all "non-essential" locations.

Toronto Wolfpack have taken the decision to put their squad in self-isolation after four players displayed "mild possible symptoms" of COVID-19.

Rugby Football League chief executive Ralph Rimmer has reiterated the organisation's stance on potentially punishing Leeds Rhinos for withdrawing from their trip to Catalans Dragons amid coronavirus fears.

The game was due to take place behind closed doors on Saturday but the Rhinos took the decision not to travel after one of their players showed symptoms of COVID-19.

While the club said the decision was in line with Department of Health guidance, Rimmer told BBC Radio 5 Live that Leeds would face due process when the issue is brought before the RFL board.

Asked whether sanctions were a possibility, he replied: "Yes it's a possibility. We spoke with Leeds at some length this week on that particular issue.

"We've applied the guidelines, which the government have asked us to observe. Leeds took a unilateral decision not to travel to that fixture.

"That will follow due process now."

The player has since tested negative for coronavirus and Rhinos' clash with St Helens is due to go ahead as scheduled on Friday.

When it was suggested that sanctioning a club for taking precautions could lead to clubs playing games despite health concerns, Rimmer insisted the league are following clear guidelines from the government.

"We were asked to observe some directives from the government," he said.

"We asked particularly about this scenario. We passed that on to the club and they took a unilateral decision. I'm sure the board will look at everything that's built around that case in particular.

"The rugby league board has been through a lot of landmark cases. It will be an interesting case."

Leeds Rhinos have announced one of their players has gone into self-isolation with possible coronavirus symptoms, prompting the club to pull out of Saturday's Super League match against Catalans Dragons.

The fixture was due to be played behind closed doors at Catalans' Stade Gilbert Brutus, and Leeds were set to travel on Friday via Barcelona.

The West Yorkshire club have not identified the player concerned, and said it was the "responsible thing to do" to abandon the trip.

A statement from the Rhinos read: "It was decided by the RFL board on Tuesday that the game should go ahead behind closed doors after the French authorities banned gatherings of over 1,000 spectators.

"However, both clubs have remained in regular dialogue since then and, following the latest development, it was decided that the team should not travel to Spain and France this weekend.

"The team were due to fly to Barcelona on Friday morning before travelling north to Perpignan ahead of Saturday’s game and then returning to UK via Barcelona on Sunday afternoon."

Leeds Rhinos director of rugby Kevin Sinfield said: "We are disappointed to be in a position whereby we have had to make this decision but the health and wellbeing of everyone is our paramount concern particularly with us having to fly to fulfil the fixture.

"We were travelling on a scheduled flight to Barcelona and, with one of our players self-isolating, we felt it was the responsible thing to do both for our players and staff and members of the public who we would share the flight with.

"I would like to thank Catalans Dragons for their understanding."

The coronavirus continues to have a huge impact on the sporting calendar. 

Further measures to prevent the spread of the virus were taken on Tuesday, affecting a plethora of sports and leagues.

More events were subject to postponements, while games taking place in empty arenas will become a regular sight in the coming weeks.

Here we look at the sporting decisions announced as the world attempts to tackle the outbreak.

 

Catalans Dragons have confirmed their match against Leeds Rhinos on Saturday will be played behind closed doors at the Gilbert Brutus stadium. 

The French side wanted to move the fixture to Leeds or play on an alternative date later in the year, but their request was rejected after a meeting involving the RFL, Super League and both teams.

Catalans released a statement expressing their disappointment at a decision they explained would "hugely impact the finances of the club", with revenues from the upcoming match having already been factored into their budget.

All professional football matches in Portugal will take place behind closed doors this weekend, with the possibility of that being extended for an indefinite period.

President of the French Football Federation, Noel Le Graet, has said France's two matches against Ukraine and Finland this month will be played without spectators present at the Stade de France.

The Finland match was initially scheduled to be played at Lyon's Groupama Stadium but Le Graet felt playing at a different venue to their regular home in Paris would no longer make sense.

Scottish champions Celtic are asking players to "limit their appearances at events outwith training and playing duties", while avoiding interactions with fans such as taking selfies or signing autographs.

The DEL, Germany's top Ice Hockey league, has ended its ongoing 2019-20 season with immediate effect. They will not hold end-of-season play-offs nor will a champion be crowned.

With March Madness now a week away, NCAA president Mark Emmert has insisted neither health experts nor the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control have advised against sporting events being held.

The update came after the Ivy League announced its postseason tournament was cancelled. Yale have been declared Ivy League champions and will represent it in March Madness.

Barcelona have released the latest steps they are taking relating to the COVID-19 outbreak. All their games at professional, amateur and youth levels will be played behind closed doors, with all ticket holders to be refunded by the club.

Barca academy activities in China, Japan, Jordan, Dubai and Kuwait have all been suspended, and their Academy World Cup tournament has been cancelled. The youth team will not take part in any away tournaments or friendlies during the months of March and April.

Northern Irish champions Linfield have confirmed an unnamed player has tested positive for coronavirus and BBC Sport are reporting the club's Windsor Park stadium will be closed for the next two days while a deep clean takes place.

The rearranged Bundesliga match between rivals Borussia Monchengladbach and Cologne, which was originally cancelled due to Storm Ciara, will now be played behind closed doors on Wednesday.

Gladbach CEO Stephan Schippers expressed his concern at a news conference as he explained the club would lose €2m each time this happened.

Germany and Italy's friendly match, set to take place on March 31 in Nuremberg, will now be played behind closed doors, the German Football Association (DFB) confirmed. Additionally, there will be no fans at the Bundesliga game between Hoffenheim and Hertha Berlin on March 14.

In France, Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 games will be played behind closed doors until April 15. France's minister for sport Roxana Maracineanu had on Monday said games could be played with a limit of 1,000 fans, but the Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) confirmed on Tuesday that no fans will be permitted. Earlier, Maracineanu called for fans to show "responsibility" and avoid "any damaging impact on public order" when Paris Saint-Germain play Borussia Dortmund behind closed doors in the Champions League on Wednesday.

All sporting activity in Italy is suspended until April 3 by the country's Olympic Committee. In a statement, the committee conceded it does not have jurisdiction over international competitions. Following that, it was confirmed the Champions League clash between Barcelona and Napoli at Camp Nou on March 18 will go ahead behind closed doors. The Italian club insisted reports claiming they wanted the match to be postponed were "fake news".

The PGA of America and PGA Tour have rejected suggestions the US PGA Championship, which is to be held from May 14-17 at TPC Harding Park, could be moved from San Francisco after this week's tennis tournaments in Indian Wells were cancelled. 

"They [PGA of America officials] are fully planning on proceeding with the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco," PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said. "There is no plan at this point in time for the PGA Championship to be held here. It's going to be held at TPC Harding Park."

However, the MotoGP Grand Prix of the Americas, which was scheduled for April 3-5 in Austin, is postponed and will instead take place in November.

Catalans Dragons continued to climb the Super League table after building on their victories over Castleford Tigers and Hull FC with a 30-14 defeat of Salford Red Devils at Stade Gilbert Brutus.

A try from Micky McIlorum and two from Matt Whitley helped the hosts to an 18-0 lead at half-time, but Salford came out with renewed intent after the break.

Niall Evalds went over within three minutes of the restart and Ken Sio registered a brace to make it 20-14 with 14 minutes left on the clock as a dramatic turnaround looked possible.

But the Dragons were not finished and Fouad Yaha found the corner before Israel Folau teed up Lewis Tierney for a try that put the game out of Salford's reach.

Ian Watson's men have won just one of their opening six games this season, while Catalans are up to sixth and hold games in hand on the rest of the league.

Israel Folau tasted victory in his first Super League game on English soil as a late James Maloney try earned Catalans Dragons a dramatic 34-29 victory at Hull FC.

Dual-code international Folau, who was sacked by Rugby Australia after posting homophobic comments on social media, was greeted by boos from the home crowd when he first touched the ball.

Hull, who had led 28-10 during the second half, appeared to have grabbed the win thanks to Marc Sneyd's late drop goal.

However, after Folau had helped win back possession from the restart, Maloney went over soon after and then converted his own try to clinch Catalans their second win in three games this season.

Wigan Warriors now lead the way in the table, their 42-10 triumph at Huddersfield Giants aided by a 10-minute spell where they crossed four times.

Winger Liam Marshall scored a hat-trick of tries while George Burgess grabbed his first for the Cherry and Whites, forcing his way over in the closing minutes.

Elsewhere, tries from Max Jowitt, Tom Johnstone, Bill Tupou and Kelepi Tanginoa earned Wakefield Trinity a 22-12 victory at Salford Red Devils, who reached the Grand Final last season but have won just once in five outings so far in 2020.

Catalans Dragons insist a rainbow flag was only ordered to be removed at their match against Castleford Tigers as it was covering advertising boards, although the Rugby Football League (RFL) is taking time to investigate.

There were reports of rainbow flags, a representative symbol of LGBT pride, being taken down following Israel Folau's Catalans debut.

Former union star Folau was playing for the first time since he was sacked by Rugby Australia (RA) last May for posting homophobic comments on social media.

The Dragons say they have analysed footage of the incident and have offered an explanation, adamant pro-LGBT banners are welcome at their stadium.

"Catalans Dragons are happy to confirm that supporters flags are welcome in all the stands at Gilbert Brutus Stadium," a statement read.

"We noted the complaints of certain Castleford supporters but, having reviewed the CCTV footage and numerous photos in the media, we can confirm that supporters were able to display their flags and colours throughout.

"However, it is important that flags and banners do not cover advertising boards. Stadium security staff are briefed to ensure that advertising boards are kept clear throughout the game.

"The investigation found that one person was asked to remove a flag because it was covering an advertising board. 

"The only banners and flags forbidden in our stadium and other sports stadia would be those which are insulting or inciting violence.

"We can confirm that no such incidents were reported on Saturday during our match against Castleford."

However, the RFL is not yet closing the case.

A short statement read: "We thank Catalans Dragons for instigating their own investigation, but we will need time to consider all the available evidence before reaching any conclusions."

Folau scored an early try on his first rugby league outing since 2010, helping Catalans defeat Castleford 36-18 in Perpignan on Saturday.

Super League is investigating a claim from a Castleford Tigers fan that they were asked to remove a rainbow flag during Israel Folau's debut for Catalans Dragons.

Folau scored an early try on his first rugby league outing since 2010, helping the Dragons defeat Castleford 36-18 in Perpignan on Saturday.

It was Folau's first appearance since he was sacked by Rugby Australia (RA) last May for posting homophobic comments on social media.

A Tigers supporter at the venue revealed on Twitter they had been told they were not allowed a rainbow flag, which represents a symbol of LGBT pride.

A widely reported Super League statement read: "Everyone should have the right to respectfully express their views. We are investigating.

"We will receive a full report by the end of this weekend and have more details on Monday."

A Dragons spokesperson added: "Rainbow flags are not banned at our club. It is not forbidden. We are gathering more information about what happened."

Catalans' signing of Folau sparked plenty of controversy and Super League clubs voted to have "greater authority to stop controversial signings" earlier this month.

Folau reached a financial settlement with RA in December before switching codes to pen a one-year deal with the Dragons.

Catalans head coach Steve McNamara praised the player for handling the scrutiny surrounding him on debut.

"Well I've just congratulated him on that [media scrutiny] downstairs because it is different," he said. 

"It is different for this area, this region to have journalists from around the world chasing players around in cars and following people. 

"All the other bits that go with it, for the players to deal with that and come up with a performance like that is a credit to them.

"For him to play his first game of rugby league and only train for 10 days with the team in total, to come up with that sort of defensive performance really gives us encouragement going forward with him.

"I knew he was ready to play. I said I wouldn't risk him if he wasn't. There was no way we were going to do that just because it was a home game."

Israel Folau scored a try six minutes into his Super League debut and the outstanding Sam Tomkins grabbed a hat-trick as Catalans Dragons beat Castleford Tigers 36-18 on Saturday.

All eyes were on Folau in his first rugby league match for a decade after he switched codes last month to make a controversial move to Perpignan.

Folau said he considered retirement after being sacked by Rugby Australia last May for posting homophobic comments on social media before joining Catalans in January.

The dual-code international, starting at centre, made up for lost time by rising to take a high kick from James Maloney and dotting down after Tomkins had already opened the scoring at Stade Gilbert Brutus.

Folau showed his strength in the air, holding another up-and-under following a juggling act, but came down just short of the line as Catalans continued to show plenty of attacking threat.

Samisoni Langi touched down for a third Dragons try, which Maloney converted, but tries from Derrell Olpherts and Cheyse Blair meant the Tigers were very much in it when trailing 20-12 at half-time.

Castleford were unable to contain Tomkins, though, the livewire full-back finishing nine minutes into the second half before darting inside to seal his treble towards the end of the contest.

Fouad Yaha also went over for Steve McNamara's men and Folau lasted the distance, showing some eye-catching touches in a promising start to his return to the 13-a-side format.

However, the 30-year-old will know he may not be in for such a warm welcome when Catalans travel to face Hull FC in their next outing.

Israel Folau made up for lost time by scoring a try just six minutes into his Catalans Dragons debut in the Super League clash with Castleford Tigers.

Folau said he considered retirement after being sacked by Rugby Australia last May for posting homophobic comments on social media before switching codes to join Catalans in January.

The dual-code international - who settled a legal dispute with Rugby Australia over his dismissal in December - had to wait for his Catalans bow, but made a quick impact after his controversial move was ratified by the Rugby Football League.

Folau got on the end of an up and under to touch down in the corner early on at Stade Gilbert Brutus after Sam Tomkins had put Catalans in front with a try just three minutes in on Saturday.

The 30-year-old started at centre in his first rugby league match for a decade. 

Israel Folau will make his Catalans Dragons debut in the Super League encounter with Castleford Tigers on Saturday.

The dual-code international joined Catalans in January after being sacked by Rugby Australia last May.

Folau had his contract terminated for a "high-level breach" after he posted that hell awaits "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters" on Instagram. He had been warned over previous online posts in 2018.

The 30-year-old - who settled a legal dispute with Rugby Australia over his dismissal in December - had to wait for his Catalans bow after his move to Perpignan was ratified by the Rugby Football League.

However, he is selected at centre for the fixture against the Tigers at Stade Gilbert Brutus.

Israel Folau would be welcomed into the Tonga team provided he cuts out "crazy" social media posts, Andrew Fifita has said.

The dual-code Australia international last year indicated his ambition to play for Tonga, with his parents both hailing from the South Pacific archipelago.

His strong religious views have caused controversy, and Folau recently signed for Catalans Dragons who warned they would not tolerate the 30-year-old making any further incendiary comments.

Folau provoked fury within and beyond the LGBT+ community last April when he wrote on Instagram that "hell awaits" gay people, in a post that has not been deleted.

He was sacked by Rugby Australia and later took the national body to court, before stepping away from rugby union and returning to rugby league, the code in which he began his career.

Cronulla Sharks star Fifita is determined to keep an open mind and says Folau could play a part with coach Kristian Woolf's squad, if he keeps his views private.

"I don't agree with some of the terms he's come out with and said, but football is football and, mate, I've done a lot of things in my past and I know all can be forgiven," said Fifita, quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald.

"He can't come out with those crazy posts again. I'm all for God as well but in saying that, everyone in life deserves to be happy.

"When we're talking about gays and lesbians … I got family who are gay and they've got the right to be happy.

"If he has a really good year, the international jersey will be waiting for him."

Woolf has previously said he would consider Folau, should he impress with Catalans.

Folau has yet to make his debut for the French side but has been named in the squad to face Castleford Tigers in Super League on Saturday.

The Super League board has voted unanimously in favour of measures to ensure the competition has "greater authority to stop controversial signings" after Israel Folau joined Catalans Dragons.

The Dragons last week announced the arrival of former Australia rugby union international Folau, who was sacked by Rugby Australia (RA) in May 2019.

RA said Folau committed a "high-level breach" of its code of conduct after he posted hell awaits "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters" on Instagram. He had been warned over previous online posts in 2018.

The 30-year-old, who has switched codes to pen a one-year deal with Catalans, appealed the verdict and subsequently came to a financial agreement with RA in December.

Super League executive chairman Robert Elstone said the league "deplores the homophobic comments Israel Folau has made in the past", but the move was ratified by the Rugby Football League (RFL).

The RFL said: "We don't believe that, under our current regulatory framework, [Folau's comments] can prevent his participation in the sport."

However, Super League is now moving to ensure it has a say in future deals, keen to avoid a repeat of the situation with Folau where it was powerless to prevent his signing.

After a board meeting in Salford on Wednesday, a statement from the governing body read: "Super League has clearly and consistently outlined its position on Israel Folau.

"With the season under way, we now feel it is important for Super League to separate what is an off-field matter from what is happening on the field. 

"The Super League board accepts the legalities around the RFL's decision to register Israel Folau, and the board has voted unanimously to put in place measures that ensure the Super League has greater authority to stop controversial signings such as this in the future. 

"As a sport, we have an impressive and enviable track record when it comes to equality, diversity and inclusion and we will continue our great work in those areas."

Folau was not involved as Catalans slumped to a 32-12 home defeat to Huddersfield Giants in their opening fixture of the 2020 campaign.

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