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Vunipola stands firm after 'liking' controversial Folau comments

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By Reuters
Vunipola stands firm after 'liking' controversial Folau comments
FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - Premiership - Saracens v Harlequins - London Stadium, London, Britain - March 23, 2019 Saracens' Billy Vunipola in action Action Images/Paul Childs/File Photo   -   Copyright  Paul Childs(Reuters)

(Reuters) – England number eight Billy Vunipola on Friday defended himself for ‘liking’ discriminatory comments made by Australia fullback Israel Folau on social media.

Folau, a fundamentalist Christian, was informed by Rugby Australia (RA) on Thursday he would be sacked if he could offer no good reason for a social media post that said gay people would go to “hell” if they did not “repent”.

Vunipola said he had been told by three people to withdraw his apparent support to Folau’s post.

“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?,” Vunipola wrote on Instagram.

Folau’s post has been ‘liked’ on Instagram by more than 30,000 users, which according to Australian media reports, included some of his Wallabies team mates.

Vunipola was born in Australia to Tongan parents but moved to the UK as a child and qualified for England through residency. He and his brother Mako both play for Saracens, England’s leading Premiership club.

“I don’t HATE anyone neither do I think I’m perfect,” Vunipola added.

“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.”

Folau had posted similar comments last year but escaped sanction and signed a new deal with RA through 2022 in February.

That multi-million dollar contract looks certain to be torn up unless Folau can convince RA and the New South Wales Waratahs that there are “compelling mitigating factors” for sharing the post.

Folau has played 73 tests and helped Australia to the final of the 2015 World Cup in England, where they were beaten by New Zealand.

(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)