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Today's rugby news as disgraced Israel Folau and two All Blacks superstars all switch to same country in game-changing move

Here's your round-up of all the latest rugby headlines for Friday, May 27.

Folau picked for Tonga after Australia sacking

Former Wallabies full-back Israel Folau has ended his international exile after being selected by Tonga following his sacking by Australia in 2018 owing to controversial and offensive social media posts.

Folau, 33, played 73 Tests for the Wallabies before Rugby Australia cut him after he published an Instagram post which said hell awaited "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolators", which prompted an almighty backlash.

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Since his sacking by Australia, Folau has played both union and league, but this season the 33-year-old has played for Shining Arcs Tokyo-Bay Urayasu in Japan's Rugby League One, scoring 10 tries in 12 outings.

He is named in Tonga's 31-man squad to face Fiji, Samoa and Australia A in the Pacific Nations Cup. Folau is included alongside former All Blacks Charles Piutau and Malakai Fekitoa in a new-look squad for the Pacific Islanders.

The trio's inclusion marks the return to international rugby for all three players under World Rugby’s new eligibility laws introduced on January 1, allowing Test-capped players to represent a second country for whom they are qualified to play via birthright following a three-year gap.

Folau's last Wallabies appearance came against England in November 2018. Piutau and Fekitoa have both previously represented New Zealand.

Highly-rated youngsters head to New Zealand

Young Scarlets duo Eddie James and Sam O'Connor have both begun a three-month loan spell in New Zealand.

The move, which has been instigated by double World Cup winner Ben Franks, will see both players head out to Linwood RFC, who are based in Christchurch on the south island.

Wales under-20s centre James, 19, has impressed in the Indigo Premiership with Carmarthen Quins, while 20-year-old prop O'Connor is the younger brother of Scarlets newcomer Harri, who broke into the senior side this season.

“This will be a great experience for the boys, rugby-wise and for their own personal development,” said Scarlets general manager Jon Daniels. “Going to a different environment and embracing a different culture will not only make them better players, but better rounded individuals when they return to Parc y Scarlets later this summer and we are grateful to Linwood for welcoming the boys on board.”

World Rugby names all-women team of referees for World Cup

World Rugby has confirmed an 18-strong team of match officials for Rugby World Cup 2021 which will be led by an all-women team of referees. The team which will officiate the 26 matches features nine referees, five assistant referees and four television match officials (TMOs) - all from 11 different unions.

The tournament is set to take place from October 8 to November 12 in New Zealand, in what will be the first women's World Cup to be held in the southern hemisphere.

World Rugby chairman, Sir Bill Beaumont, said: “I would like to congratulate the 18 match officials selected to officiate Rugby World Cup 2021. Rugby World Cup is the pinnacle event in 15s rugby and to earn selection – whether you’re a player or a match official – is a huge achievement and something to be extremely proud of. Fifteen of the 18 match officials selected being female not only demonstrates the strength and depth of elite level match officials across the globe, but also the commitment that World Rugby and its member unions have made to developing women in rugby and increasing the visibility of females within our sport across multiple pathways."

Referees (nine): Aimee Barrett-Theron (South Africa), Maggie Cogger-Orr (New Zealand), Sara Cox (England), Hollie Davidson (Scotland), Aurélie Groizeleau (France), Lauren Jenner (New Zealand), Clara Munarini (Italy), Amber McLachlan (Australia), Joy Neville (Ireland).

Assistant referees (five): Doriane Domenjo (France), Tyler Miller (Australia), Nikki O’Donnell (England), Kat Roche (USA), Julianne Zussman (Canada).

TMOs (four): Chris Assmus (Canada), Lee Jeffrey (New Zealand), Ian Tempest (England), Ben Whitehouse (Wales).

Rodney Parade gets summer renovation

Work has begun on the summer renovation of the pitch at Rodney Parade.

The annual work, which has been undertaken in partnership with South Wales Sports ground, is expected to be completed this week, before the grass begins to regrow.

The playing surface at the stadium has undergone significant work in recent years following criticism, and was recently named the EFL's League Two pitch of the year.

Jon Raymond, Rodney Parade facilities manager, said: “The success we had last season, winning the EFL League Two pitch of the year, was thanks to the hard work of the grounds team here at Rodney Parade. Heading into next season, we want to maintain and exceed that standard and this process is vital in ensuring we can successfully achieve that. Our thanks to South Wales Sports Grounds. It’s been great to work with them once again; we have a fantastic relationship and their eye for detail is what makes them great at what they do.”