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Wigan Warriors captain Sean O'Loughlin.

English Super League club Wigan Warriors have responded to Israel Folau's return to rugby league by declaring their round eight clash with Catalans will be a 'Pride Day' celebration on March 22. 

Just 20 minutes after the French organisation unveiled their controversial recruit, Wigan announced that the match against Folau's new club will be dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community and their players will don rainbow socks and laces for the occasion. 

"Here at Wigan Warriors we are committed to the core values of inclusion and respect," said Wigan CEO Kris Radlinkski.

"Our community foundation have a long history of supporting local LGBTQ+ groups and initiatives and we want everyone who engages with our game to feel welcome, valued and most of all, respected.

"Rugby League has a strong history of inclusion, of breaking down barriers and of being a forward-thinking sport. I think that today more than any day that it is vitally important we reiterate that message.

"We're looking forward to working with charities, local and hopefully national groups, to make this day a success."

It comes as Britain's first openly gay rugby league player, Keegan Hirst, said he was "shocked and disappointed" by the news of Folau's signing.

Hirst, who plays for Halifax in the Championship, tweeted: "Our great game is tasked with fighting against homophobia and standing up for the values it puts such high stock in."

Wakefield CEO Michael Carter added: "His views are abhorrent in a modern world. His registration should have been refused – that is our club’s position on it. We have no time for the views he shares."

Folau's contract with Rugby Australia was terminated last May over homophobic slurs made on his social media accounts.

He reached a confidential settlement agreement with the game's governing body in December.

It was announced as part of Folau's one-year deal with the Dragons that strict policies were in place for the former Kangaroo and Wallaby.

"We want to give Israel a new opportunity to shine on the pitch," Dragons chairman Bernard Guasch said in a statement.

"We do not support or agree with Israel's previously expressed and controversial views which are based upon his sincerely held religious belief.

"We have signed an agreement with the RFL. Any transgression will trigger an immediate termination of Israel's contract and substantial fine for the club."

Folau declared he would follow the strict guidelines attached to his deal.

"I acknowledge the views expressed by Super League and the Rugby Football League," he said in a statement.

"I'm a proud Christian, my beliefs are personal, my intention is not to hurt anyone and I will not be making further public comment about them.

"I look forward to my return to the great game of Rugby League with the Catalan Dragons."

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