Tue, Apr 16, 2019 - Page 16 News List

Israel Folau says he’ll quit rugby if it’s ‘God’s will’

AP, SYDNEY

Coach Michael Cheika yesterday said that he would not have been able to select fullback Israel Folau for the Wallabies after his latest “disrespectful” social media posts attacking gay people.

Cheika spoke to reporters for the first time since Folau, a devout Christian, posted on Instagram that gay people would go to hell unless they repented.

Cheika was flanked by Daryl Gibson, who coaches Folau’s Super Rugby team, the New South Wales Waratahs, and Michael Hooper, who captains the Wallabies and Waratahs, and who said he would have been reluctant to play beside Folau after his latest comments.

A day after Folau told a newspaper it would be “God’s will” if he never played again, Rugby Australia yesterday served him with formal notice that he had breached its code of conduct, starting a process expected to end with the termination of Folau’s Wallabies and Waratahs contracts.

“We appreciate this matter will attract significant interest, but due process must be followed,” Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle told reporters. “Israel had 48 hours to accept the sanction or have the matter sent to a code of conduct hearing. It was made clear to Israel in writing and verbally when I met with him last year that any social media posts or commentary that in any way were disrespectful to people because of their sexuality would result in disciplinary action.”

Cheika said that he had already formed the view that Folau could not be chosen for the Wallabies after his latest posting.

In 2017, Folau was warned by Rugby Australia after his use of social media to express opposition to gay marriage.

Chieka said Folau’s latest comments crossed a line.

“We’ve had the discussion about it after the last time about his right to believe and our support in that, but getting out in that disrespectful manner publicly is not what our team’s about,” he said. “We’ve had the discussion about it and that line’s then been crossed. When you play in the gold [Wallabies] jersey, we’re representing everyone in Australia. I felt that I needed to talk to him [Folau] about why, but I haven’t had that chance as yet.”

Asked if he would find it difficult to play next to Folau, Hooper, who looked deeply uncomfortable, reluctantly said he would.

“You take your friends warts and all, and your teammates,” Hooper said. “Like was said before, in this current state and being here and talking about this as a rugby player, it makes it hard, it makes it difficult. It’s hard being here.”

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