THE Australian full-back Israel Folau has said that he will step away from professional rugby if it is God’s will. He was suspended from his duties and faced being excluded from the World Cup squad over anti-gay comments.
Mr Folau, a fundamentalist Christian who was raised a Mormon, posted an image on Instagram last week with the words: “Drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolaters HELL AWAITS YOU REPENT!”
Rugby Australia has suspended Mr Folau from his duties, and the Australia coach Michael Cheika said that it would be “difficult” to select the player for the World Cup in Japan this September, after the controversy.
Mr Folau told The Sydney Morning Herald on Sunday: “It’s obviously a decision that’s in the process right now, but I believe in a God that’s in control of all things. 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.
“First and foremost, I live for God now. His plans for me are better than whatever I can think. If that’s not to continue playing, so be it . . . my faith in Jesus Christ is what comes first.”
Mr Folau avoided being sanctioned by Rugby Australia over a similar post in 2017 after he wrote a website column saying that he had not meant to hurt people in expressing his beliefs.
His recent comments were “liked” by the England number eight Billy Vunipola, who is also facing disciplinary action for his subsequent Instagram post defending Mr Folau.
Mr Vunipola, who is due to be questioned by the Rugby Football Union (RFU) this week, wrote that he had received three phone calls urging him to “unlike” the post.
“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 procreate. . . I believe there’s a God. To guide and protect us and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
His post was liked by other members of the England squad: Manu Tuilagi, Nathan Hughes, Nick Isiekwe, and Courtney Lawes, who wrote his own post defending Mr Vunipola’s right to express his opinion. It is not clear whether these players will also be disciplined.
The elite England squad are required to uphold an RFU code of conduct. A spokeswoman for the RFU said: “Rugby is an inclusive sport, and we do not support these views. We will be meeting with Billy to discuss his social media posts.”