SYDNEY (Reuters) – David Pocock and Israel Folau might disagree fundamentally on the issue of LGBT rights but the Wallabies are united in believing their diametrically opposed views will not have an impact on the Australia team.
Folau, a fundamentalist Christian, caused a stir earlier this year when he responded to a question on social media with the assertion that homosexuals were destined for “hell” if they did not “repent”.
Pocock, meanwhile, was an outspoken advocate for equal marriage rights for same sex couples ahead of last year’s Australian referendum on the matter and has in the past called out homophobic abuse on the field of play.
Speaking to reporters after joining up with the Australia squad for the three-test series against European champions Ireland at the weekend, Folau said such issues would not come between them.
“There’s nothing personal towards each other,” the fullback told reporters in Brisbane.
“I’m looking forward to seeing him … we’re both grown men and talk about things openly. We just had an open chat about our different beliefs.
“We respect each other. It doesn’t change the way we feel about each other. It won’t change anything when we step out onto the field. I’ll be there to cover him and same with him. We’re 100 percent behind each other.”
Flanker Pocock, late to join the Wallabies squad after playing for the ACT Brumbies on Sunday, was equally clear that while he strongly disagreed with Folau, the issues would not come between them.
“I’ve got family who have those views and we’ve had it out over the years,” Pocock told Fairfax Media in Canberra after the match.
“The bottom line is they’re family. You talk about it in a civil way … and when you do that you realise we’ve got far more common ground than we have in difference of belief.
“I just don’t see who wins if we aren’t able to relate to each other as humans and keep talking about things rather than having these really nasty polarising debates to decide who is and isn’t part of our tribe based on their beliefs.
“We all lose something when we aren’t able to engage with people just because we disagree on something.”
Australia coach Michael Cheika has made it quite clear he does not believe Folau will post anything on social media that will cause controversy or disrupt squad unity during the international season.
The Wallabies face Ireland in the first test at Lang Park in Brisbane on Saturday.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Peter Rutherford)