Red ahead: Folau weighs up shock defection
QUEENSLAND has emerged as a shock option for Israel Folau if he re-signs with Australian rugby.
Folau has spoken to Reds coach Brad Thorn about a potential move to Brisbane in 2019, News Corp Australia understands.
The development comes as Folau's wife Maria lambasted the NSW Waratahs for shifting him to the wing for the last quarter of their match against the Blues at Brookvale Oval last Saturday.
Discussions between Folau and the Reds are at a preliminary stage and a number of hurdles would need to be cleared.
There have been no further contract discussions between Folau and Rugby Australia since his "gays to hell" comments caused outrage.
Folau is looking for a three-year deal to remain in Australian rugby, but a return to the NRL and offers in Europe are also on the table.
The Reds, meanwhile, need to clear overheads, with Quade Cooper, Karmichael Hunt and Nick Frisby all taking up large salaries while not being used by Thorn.
Queensland is hoping the trio will find overseas deals to get them off the books for next season.
Cooper, signed to a Rugby Australia-topped deal worth $800,000-a-year until the end of 2019, is playing club rugby for Souths after being dropped by Thorn.
Cooper has rejected approaches from the Brumbies and Melbourne Rebels recently in a clear sign he is willing to wait it out, leaving the Reds in a bind.
Folau has strong relationships at NSW and has consistently said he is happy to play wherever it suits the Tahs. But his wife's comments suggest he may have been unhappy being shifted to the end of the backline.
Folau, the Wallabies fullback, was moved to the wing earlier this season by Tahs coach Daryl Gibson, with Bryce Hegarty starting in the No.15 jersey.
Folau played twice there before injuring his hamstring, but upon his return he was reinstalled as the starting fullback. During the 24-21 loss to the Blues, Hegarty came off the bench and went to fullback, with Folau reverting to the wing, prompting his wife's extraordinary remarks.
The Waratahs are desperate to hold onto Folau but the 29-year-old does have an affinity for Brisbane, having grown up there and playing for the Broncos in the NRL in 2009 and 2010 while also representing Queensland in State of Origin five times.
Folau said last week he could still start at fullback for NSW and be an aerial threat on the wing - the primary reason he was shifted out wide.
"I enjoy playing in both roles, just because I've got the No.15 jersey, I can still mix and match with using that skill in some parts of the game," Folau said.
"It's just a matter of talking to the wingers and communicating that.
"That's an option that's not entirely gone away, we can still use that whenever that suits in a game."
Waratahs backs coach Chris Malone said on Monday: "Gibbo and I have both had countless conversations with Iz, and he'll do anything for the team.
"He played 60 minutes of the game at fullback and 20 minutes on the wing, he knows that he's going to offer a lot for the team wherever he is on the field.
"And we give him license to play.
"He was involved a lot, for a guy that just came back from injury, he had a really good game.
"When it comes down to selecting the team, we've got to do what's right for the team, hence Israel played fullback on Saturday night.
"We thought in that game he was going to do a really good job for us there, and he did."