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Olympics can keep Folau in rugby: Pulver

11 April 2013

RUGBY SEVENS: The Australian Rugby Union is quietly confident the lure of an Olympic Games gold medal will keep superstar Israel Folau in the code.

Speculation is rife in rugby league circles that Folau will return to the NRL in 2014 after leaving the game at the end of 2010 before his less-than-successful two-year stint with the AFL club Greater Western Sydney.

Canterbury have confirmed they've been courting the former Australian representative but denied any NRL deal has been done.

However, ARU chief executive Bill Pulver says Folau has spoken of his interest in representing Australia in sevens at the Rio Olympic Games in 2016.

Pulver is hopeful the NSW Waratahs outside back will be playing for the Wallabies when the shortened format of the sport makes its Olympic debut in three years.

"When he signed up to play rugby he expressed an interest in playing for the Wallabies and in playing rugby for the sevens team so he has a very open mind as to which way that goes," Pulver told the AAP Sports Editors' conference in Sydney on Wednesday.

"I can promise you the best of the Wallabies who are interested in playing sevens rugby will be part of the sevens rugby team at Rio.

"And it will be great to see the likes of Israel Folau and James O'Connor playing alongside some of the great young talent we are developing in sevens chasing that gold medal.

"With due respect to all other codes, that is the chance of a lifetime."

Folau only signed a one-year deal with rugby and Pulver said he would have to commit to rugby for the 2015 season if he was to be considered for the Olympics the following year.

"I am not close to those negotiations (with Folau's camp) but clearly we are hopeful he will stay in rugby," he said.

"In the short term we are going to be growing our investment in sevens from the ARU and ideally that would create the opportunity for Super Rugby players to actually play some sevens.

"Long-term leading into the Olympic Games, whoever is going to go to the Games in 2016 needs to be committed to the game by the latter part of 2015 so there is a one year run up to it."

James MacSmith
AAP