Israel Folau has hit back at Rugby Australia's attempts to sack him by requesting a code of conduct hearing. The talented full back had his contract terminated after posting a social media post which said that “hell awaits” gay people. Folau had 48 hours to seek an appeal and the matter will now be sent to a three-person hearing. That will take place in the coming weeks.
Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle said Folau's request "was not an unexpected outcome", but it sets the stage for what could be a damaging showdown.
Folau has been broadly disowned by key figures in Australian rugby including Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika. The former Leinster supremo said he would not pick him to play Test rugby again. Waratahs captain Michael Hooper admitted it would be "difficult" to take the field alongside Folau. His New South Wales coach Daryl Gibson expressed "disappointment" that this team was in the same situation a year after Folau made similar comments and escaped official sanction. Sponsors Qantas also condemned his latest comments stating they did not "reflect the spirit of inclusion and diversity" they support.
At stake for Folau is a multi-million euro four year contract and he could have grounds for a legal claim on the grounds of religious discrimination. Reports claim Rugby Australia did not take action against Folau last year amid fears it would become a freedom of speech case. They have been quick to point out the player is "entitled to his religious beliefs", but could not express them in a way that "condemns, vilifies or discriminates against people on the basis of their sexuality."
Folau insisted he had not thought about the legal route when speaking over the weekend. “Absolutely not” was his response when asked if he would reconsider his comments. "I'll stand on what the Bible says. I share it with love.”