Israel Folau has been shielded from unwanted scrutiny as the former Wallaby spoke for the first time since signing with Super League side Catalans Dragons.
The Dragons had intended to hold a press conference to unveil Folau but instead opted to conduct their own in-house interview.
It denied local media the chance to address the firestorm of Folau’s recruitment, with rival Hull Kingston Rovers threatening potential legal action if his arrival leads to financial repercussions or reputational damage across the competition.
The interview instead focused on Folau’s return to rugby league after a decade playing rugby union and Australian rules football.
“I’m excited to be back playing the game that I grew up playing,” Folau said.
“It’s been 10 years since I last played rugby league and I’m grateful for the opportunity to be a part of a great organisation.
Folau was sacked by Rugby Australia last year for expressing homophobic views on social media.
The 73-Test star said he was glad to be back in a team environment after a lengthy stint on the sideline.
“I’m here to compete and play some good footy, and hopefully be a consistent player for the team,” Folau said
“I missed that team camaraderie, the team environment and being around your teammates, being able to train and working alongside the coaches.
“That’s something I’ve missed the last seven months but it’s fantastic to be back in that team environment again, and getting back in that routine of training with the boys.”
Some familiar faces had been a welcome sight while making the transition to life in the south of France, Folau said.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to play against some of the guys in the team: David Mead, big Sam Kasiano,” he said.
“Those guys I’ve played against in the NRL. It’s great to be their teammate here at the Dragons.”
Folau insists he’s committed to embedding himself in the local community along with wife and retired Silver Fern Maria, and even plans to learn the language.
“It’s something totally different to what I’m used to … but myself and my wife have been very excited from the day we landed here,” he said.
“The culture’s amazing and we’re looking forward to, as the year goes on, getting to learn to speak the language and also embrace the people here.”