Thursday 19 September 2019

Wallabies and Cheika stand firm over 'disrespectful' Folau

Australia's Israel Folau. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire.
Australia's Israel Folau. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire.
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Israel Folau's hopes of featuring at this year's World Cup appear to have been extinguished as the Australian Rugby Union stand firm in their decision to stand down the controversial star, who proclaimed that hell awaits for "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters."

The world-class full-back was set to be a major part of Michael Cheika's plans, but the Wallabies head coach has supported the union's desire not to have him selected.

Folau has since come out and said that he is prepared to walk away from rugby if it means standing by his deeply religious beliefs.

"I think as it stands right now… you wouldn't be able," Cheika said, when asked if Folau could be selected as things stand.

"We had a discussion after the last time and made it pretty clear about his right to believe and our support in that, if that's what he wants, to be part of the team.

"But getting it out in that disrespectful manner publicly is not what our team is about.

"When you play in the gold jersey, we represent everyone in Australia. Everyone that is out there supporting us, we don't pick and choose."

Folau's comments had already caused friction within the Wallabies squad as he clashed with flanker David Pocock, who fundamentally disagreed with his views on homosexuality. Pocock's fellow Australian flanker Michael Hooper echoed Cheika's sentiments when asked if he felt comfortable playing alongside Folau.

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"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 frustrating having to stand here because I can't speak for Israel, but it is part of the team celebrating our diversity and celebrating that in a respectful manner."

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen also voiced his opinion, adding that Folau had "let himself down."

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