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Rugby Australia facing ruinous split amid Folau saga

Rugby Australia faces a possible boycott from senior Wallabies if Israel Folau emerges from his upcoming code of conduct hearing with the green light to continue playing.

Halftime host James Willis says we’re on the cusp of a “massive split in the Wallabies, and most probably most of the franchises as well, between players who support Israel Folau and players who want him gone,”

“Several players in the Australian Rugby setup are furious right now because as they continue their Super Rugby campaign and their walk towards the World Cup later this year in Japan, Folau – one of the best players – is unavailable for selection,

“This whole thing has been terribly distracting and the players are sick and tired of being asked at every press conference about Folau when they want to be focusing on the next game.”

The discontent within the playing group has reached a level where a group of senior players are reportedly refusing to take to the field with Folau if his contract isn’t torn up.

Wallabies scrum half Will Genia said he’s conflicted about the situation but Folau’s comments have made it difficult to play with him.

“You can’t be going around spreading hate and telling people they’re going to hell, you can have your beliefs and have faith in what you want to have faith in but you can’t go around telling people they’re going to hell because they are a certain way,” he said.

Click PLAY to hear more from James Willis:

 

Rugby Australia finds itself fighting on two fronts. To the east are the players threatening a boycott if Folau is resinstated, but to the west are a group of religious, largely Polynesian players who believe their religious beliefs have nothing to do with their rugby careers.

Wallaby front rower Taniela Tupou has published an incendiary post on Facebook claiming Rugby Australia “might as well sack me and all the other Pacific Islands rugby players around the world” because they share the same religious beliefs as the outspoken Israel Folau.

In a since deleted post, Tupou asserted that the tenets of his faith should be considered separate to his career as a professional rugby player.

“I will never apologise for my faith and what i believe in, religion had nothing to do with rugby anyways ???????? #TYJ.” he said.

Halftime host James Willis says we’re on the cusp of a “massive split in the Wallabies, and most probably most of the franchises as well, between players who support Israel Folau and players who want him gone,

“If you were to do a quick scan of the Wallaby team right now, nearly half of the players are from the Pacific Islands, and many of them have similar Christian beliefs,

“Privately, there is enormous support within the Wallaby team from those Pacific Islands players about what Israel Folau has said, and his freedom to do so,

“Where the hell does that leave Michael Cheika and the Wallabies?”

Tupou joins a growing list of Polynesian rugby players taking to social media to proclaim their faith.

Queensland Reds captain Samu Kerevi posted a bible verse on Instagram over Easter and amid the messages of support, the post received questions from followers who asked whether the post meant he supported Israel Folau’s stance on homosexuality, fornicators and athiests. Kerevi felt compelled to clarify his post.

“God will always come first in my life and many other professional rugby players,

“Today, I felt things were taken out of context in regards to certain articles,

“I do not feel the need to apologise to people because of the situation happening right now with a brother of mine.” he said.

The “brother of mine” is in reference to controversial Wallaby Israel Folau who faces a Rugby Australia code of conduct hearing after he posted an inflammatory and homophobic statement on social media.

Folau wrote on Instagram: “Warning. Drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolaters. Hell awaits you. Repent! Only Jesus saves.”

Rugby Australia announced their intention to sack Folau but the Super Rugby leading try scorer appealed the decision and will have the matter heard on May 4th.

JAMES WILLIS
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