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Hansen on Folau: 'He can't be punished for life'

REACTION: World XV coach Steve Hansen said Israel Folau “can’t be punished for life” after the talented back was booed at Twickenham on Sunday.

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Folau scored a try for the World XV in their 42-48 loss to the Barbarians but was jeered throughout the match by around 100 banner-waving LBTQ+ protesters, while England’s governing Rugby Football Union flew a pride flag on the roof at Twickenham.

Folau, who won 73 caps for the Wallabies, was sacked by Rugby Australia in 2019 after a social media post warning “hell awaits” gay people and others he considers to be sinners.

The 34-year-old has since switched allegiance to Tonga and is set to play at this year’s Rugby World Cup in France.

“Everyone is allowed an opinion,” said Hansen, who was wearing a pride wristband.

“We don’t necessarily have to agree with each other on our opinions but you are entitled to have one.”

Hansen, the head coach of the New Zealand side that won the 2015 World Cup, added: “I’ve always been a great believer that you can’t help somebody change by leaving them on the outside.”

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World XV backs Charles Piutau, Semi Radradra and Sibusiso Nkosi all shone for the invitational side in front of a crowd of over 32 000 but it was Barbarians playmakers Quade Cooper and Gareth Anscombe who had the decisive influence.

Wales great Alun Wyn Jones, who announced his retirement from international rugby 10 days ago, led the Barbarians and while he completed the game he was off-target with two late conversions.

The Barbarians’ win meant Jones, now in charge of his native Australia for a second time, enjoyed a successful return to Twickenham in his first appearance at the ground since being sacked by England in December.

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