England star sides with Folau
REACTION: Under fire Wallaby Israel Folau has received support from within the players’ ranks.
England’s Billy Vunipola has refused to condemn Folau, following a row that has left the Australian facing the sack just months before the World Cup.
The deeply religious Folau held talks with Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle on Friday, a day after she said she intends to fire him, barring mitigating circumstances, for posting on Instagram that “Hell awaits” homosexuals.
But the meeting with the Waratahs fullback, who was embroiled in a similar controversy last year, did nothing to alter the governing body’s stance.
England and Saracens No.8 Vunipola said he had been contacted by people telling him to ‘unlike’ Folau’s post.
“So this morning I got 3 phone calls from people telling me to ‘unlike’ the @izzyfolau post. This is my position on it,” he said on his Instagram page.
“I don’t HATE anyone neither do I think I’m perfect. There just comes a point when you insult what I grew up believing in that you just say enough is enough, what he’s saying isn’t that he doesn’t like or love those people.”
In an apparent show of support to his fellow Christian, Vunipola states: “He’s saying how we live our lives needs to be closer to how God intended them to be. Man was made for woman to procreate that was the goal no?”
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So this morning I got 3 phone calls from people telling me to ‘unlike’ the @izzyfolau post. This is my position on it. I don’t HATE anyone neither do I think I’m perfect. There just comes a point when you insult what I grew up believing in that you just say enough is enough, what he’s saying isn’t that he doesn’t like or love those people. He’s saying how we live our lives needs to be closer to how God intended them to be. Man was made for woman to pro create that was the goal no? I’m not perfect I’m at least everything on that list at least at one point in my life. It hurts to know that. But that’s why I believe there’s a God. To guide and protect us and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
England’s Rugby Football Union said it would be meeting with Vunipola, like Folau of Tongan heritage, to discuss his comments.
“Rugby is an inclusive sport and we do not support these views. We will be meeting with Billy to discuss his social media posts,” an RFU spokeswoman said.
Vunipola’s mother is Iesinga Vunipola, a Methodist minister, and the 26-year-old has repeatedly spoken of the strength he draws from his faith.
His recent career has been interrupted by a series of significant injuries but he appeared throughout England’s recent Six Nations campaign.
Folau and Rugby Australia are headed for a bitter showdown with the embattled Wallabies superstar pledging to tackle the governing body head-on in a desperate bid to save his career.
Folau met RA boss Raelene Castle on Friday, with neither party backing down in a feud that threatened to turn ugly.
Folau maintained a stony silence after earlier holding crisis talks amid RA’s threat to tear up his multi-million-dollar contract following his latest attacks on homosexuals.
Supported by his professional netballer wife Maria, the three-time John Eales Medallist spent the morning at a Sydney cafe with Rugby Union Players’ Association boss Prataal Raj and another RUPA representative plotting his next move.
He refused to talk when approached by a TV reporter, but it’s understood Folau told Raj he wanted to observe his right to challenge RA’s planned sacking at a code of conduct hearing.
Rugby Australia later released a telling joint statement with the NSW Waratahs.
“Our joint position regarding Israel Folau is unchanged,” it said.
“Following the meeting today [Friday] meeting, the two organisations will update their respective boards on the matter to consider next steps.”
On Friday the NSW Rugby Union doubled down with its own statement, saying Folau had been stood down.
“NSW Rugby Union has stood down Israel Folau from all player duties with the NSW Waratahs until further notice.”
It would seem incomprehensible that the code-hopping ace would risk his career – and the opportunity to win a World Cup this year with the Wallabies – if he didn’t have another playing option.
But with ARL Commission chairman Peter Beattie slamming the door shut on Folau attempting to return to the NRL, it appears a move overseas – or retirement – will be his only options if unsuccessful in any appeal against RA’s intention to cut him free.
Beattie said the former Test and State of Origin rugby league star “fails the NRL’s inclusiveness culture”.
Folau’s spectacular fall from grace even had the prime minister weighing in on Friday.
“I thought they were terribly insensitive comments and, obviously, that was a matter for the ARU and they’ve taken that decision,” Scott Morrison said.
“It is important that people act with love, care and compassion to their fellow citizens and to speak sensitively to their fellow Australians.”
Sport Australia boss Kate Palmer commended Rugby Australia’s strong stance against discrimination and vilification and urged all sports to follow suit.
But former Wallabies coach Alan Jones slammed RA’s threat to sack Folau, saying the decision had “completely corrupted” free speech in Australia.
Sources: AFP & AAP