Wallabies full-back Israel Folau sacked by Rugby Australia over homophobic posts

Full back Israel Folau has scored 32 tries in 65 games for Australia
Full back Israel Folau has scored 32 tries in 65 games for Australia

Israel Folau is considering his options after being left "deeply saddened" by Rugby Australia's decision to terminate his contract over homophobic social media posts.

Folau's £2.15million, four-year deal has been ripped up after an independent panel on Friday backed RA's position that the comments he made on April 10 warranted his sacking rather than a fine or suspension.

The 30-year-old Christian fundamentalist said on his Instagram account that "hell awaits" for "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolaters" in a post that remains visible.

Folau has 72 hours to appeal against the outcome, but a report in Australia suggests he will pursue a different route by taking RA to the Supreme Court.

Whichever path the 73-Test Wallabies full-back follows, financial pressure will continue to build on the cash-strapped union in the form of mounting legal costs.

In a statement released after the panel gave its approval of his sacking by RA, Folau said: "It has been a privilege and an honour to represent Australia and my home state of New South Wales, playing the game I love.

"I am deeply saddened by today's decision to terminate my employment and I am considering my options. As Australians, we are born with certain rights, including the right to freedom of religion and the right to freedom of expressions.

"The Christian faith has always been part of my life and I believe it is my duty as a Christian to share God's words. Upholding my religious beliefs should not prevent my ability to work or play for my club and country. Thank you also to those who have spoken out in my defence, some of whom do not share my beliefs but have defended my right to express them."

Folau had previously been warned over making homophobic comments on social media in 2018 but did not face disciplinary action at the time.

RA chief executive Raelene Castle revealed the verdict of the independent hearing at a press conference on Friday afternoon.

"We are here to announce that Israel Folau has today been issued a sanction directing termination of his playing contract for his high-level breach of the professional players' code of conduct," Castle said.

"While Rugby Australia accepts the panel's decision directing termination of Israel Folau's contract for his high-level breach of the code of conduct, we want to stress that this outcome is a painful situation for the game.

"Rugby Australia did not choose to be in the situation, but Rugby Australia's position remains that Israel, through his actions, left us with no choice but to pursue the course of action resulting in today's outcome."

Castle said she had been in touch with players to "make it clear that Rugby Australia fully supports their right to their own beliefs, and nothing that has happened changes that".

"But when we're talking about inclusiveness in our game, we're talking abut respecting differences as well. When we say rugby is a game for all, we mean it."

One of rugby's most exciting players will be absent from this autumn's World Cup in Japan as Folau looks ahead to an uncertain future in sport.

During the hearing process, the cross code star was at one point reportedly offered £538,000 by RA to walk away from the Wallabies and Waratahs.

On another occasion he was urged to take down his posts in the hope of bringing him back from the brink. At a church sermon on Sunday, however, he declared both options were "Satan's work".

"There have been many opportunities to potentially make the situation a little bit easier. I could go back and play the game, get everything back to the way it used to be," Folau said.

"The way Satan works is he offers you stuff that could look good to the eye and makes you feel comfortable, and if you follow that path all the worries and troubles will go away. It is always the will of God that comes first..."

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