(Reuters) – The Wallabies would not be able to pick Israel Folau again due to the fullback’s “disrespectful” social media posts, coach Michael Cheika said on Monday.
Rugby Australia has said it would terminate the contract of Folau, the country’s best-known and best-paid player, if he could not offer a good reason for a social media post that said gay people would go to “hell” if they did not “repent”.
The 30-year-old, a fundamentalist Christian, posted similar comments last year but escaped sanction and signed a new deal with RA through 2022 in February.
Asked if Folau’s post had made it hard to pick him for the Wallabies again, Cheika replied: “You wouldn’t be able to.”
“We had a discussion after the last time and made it pretty clear about his right to believe and our support in that, if that’s what he wants, to be part of the team,” Cheika added.
“But getting it out in that disrespectful manner publicly is not what our team is about.
“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.”
Folau has been all but ever-present in the Wallabies number 15 shirt since switching to rugby union from Australian Rules in 2013, and his absence would be a massive blow to Cheika at this year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Folau said on Sunday he would stand by his comments, even if that meant giving up rugby.
“In saying that, obviously I love playing footy and if it goes down that path I’ll definitely miss it,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald after attending a service at his local church.
(Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)