VIDEO: The end is nigh for Folau
REACTION: Wallaby and Waratahs utility back Israel Folau is a step closer to the exit door.
Michael Cheika said Monday that Israel Folau’s “disrespectful” comments had ruled him out of selection as the World Cup looms.
Cheika said Folau, who is facing the sack by Rugby Australia, was unlikely to play for him again in an Australia shirt.
The deeply religious 30-year-old, who was embroiled in a similar row last year, has stood by his comments and says he is prepared to choose his faith over rugby.
The Wallaby superstar, Folau, has two days to respond or face the sack after being served with a breach notice by Rugby Australia over his controversial social media posts.
RA CEO Raelene Castle said the RA integrity unit had deemed Folau had committed a “high level” breach of the players’ code of conduct warranting termination of his contract.
“We appreciate this matter will attract significant interest, but due process must be followed,” Castle told reporters on Monday.
“Israel had 48 hours to accept the sanction or have the matter sent to a code of conduct hearing.”
Folau remains stood down by RA over his religiously-motivated posts last week proclaiming hell awaits “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters”.
The post remains online and has attracted more than 39,000 likes.
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Castle said Folau had been unapologetic about the posts and his stance when she met with him last Friday.
That came after he had been warned, formally and repeatedly about social media expectations after he made similar posts about a year ago.
“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,” Castle said.
“Despite this Israel has chosen to ignore this warning.”
Earlier on Monday, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika told reporters that Folau’s “disrespectful” comments would currently make it impossible to pick him in the national team, which is preparing for this year’s World Cup in Japan.
“Getting out in that disrespectful manner publicly is not what our team’s about,” Cheika said on Monday.
“When you play in the gold jersey, we represent everyone in Australia – everyone. Everyone that’s out there supporting us. We don’t pick and choose.”
Cheika fronted the media alongside Wallabies and Waratahs captain Michael Hooper and Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson.
Asked if he would be comfortable taking the field again alongside Folau, flanker Hooper said “In this current state and being here and talking about this as a rugby player, it makes it hard, it makes it difficult.
“You take your friends warts and all, and your teammates,’ Hooper added.
“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.”
While emphasising what their teams stood for, especially regarding diversity, Cheika and Hooper also stressed Folau was entitled to his beliefs.
“Everybody has the right – and we respect that right – to believe whatever they like. We’re not moral judges and no one should be,” Cheika said.
Cheika said he didn’t think the issue would rear its head again after the controversy of last year’s tweets and Rugby Australia’s subsequent talks with Folau.
“We had a discussion at the end of the last time and made it pretty clear about his right to believe and our support in that if that’s what he wants,” he said.
He had tried unsuccessfully to contact him for an explanation after the latest posts.
“Getting it out in that disrespectful manner publicly is not what our team is about,” the Wallaby coach said.
“When you play in the gold jersey we represent everyone in Australia, everyone. Everyone that is out there supporting us, we don’t pick and choose.
“I felt that I needed to talk to him about why, and I haven’t had that chance as yet. I’m sure I will in the future at some stage when it settles down for him a little bit.
“I made the calls and left the messages. There’s no beef.”
Folau told reporters after attending his church on Sunday that he stood by his posts and was prepared to walk away from the game for the sake of his faith.
When asked whether he would select Folau again, Cheika said it was highly unlikely.
“I think as it stands right now… you wouldn’t be able,” Cheika said.
Neither Cheika nor Gibson has spoken to Folau, but Hooper said he had exchanged a brief text message with his Waratahs and Wallabies team-mate.
Asked if he would still be comfortable taking the field alongside him, Hooper replied: “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, we’re rugby players for sure, we are trying to create the best team environment we possibly can and at national level,” he added.
At the weekend Folau, Super Rugby’s record try-scorer, told the Sydney Morning Herald he was ready for life without rugby, saying, “I live for God now”.
“Whatever His will is, whether that’s to continue playing or not, I’m more than happy to do what He wants me to do,” Folau said.
Sources: AAP & AFP
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