Israel Folau’s contract has been terminated over his homophobic comments after Rugby Australia’s integrity unit found the full-back to have “committed a high-level breach of the Professional Players’ Code of Conduct”, ruling him out of the Rugby World Cup.
The 73-cap international, who was committed to a multi-million dollar contract with RA until the end of 2022, has 48 hours to accept the sanction or face a code of conduct hearing.
Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle said: "Following the events of last year, Israel was warned formally and repeatedly about the expectations of him as a player for the Wallabies and NSW Waratahs with regards to social media use and he has failed to meet those obligations.
"It was made clear to him that any social media posts or commentary that is in any way disrespectful to people because of their sexuality will result in disciplinary action.
"All professional rugby players in Australia are bound by the code of conduct and there is a process in place for any disciplinary matter."
RA and the New South Wales Rugby Union took disciplinary action against Folau after he posted an image in Instagram that claimed "hell awaits" for "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolaters."
It came nearly a year after Folau was warned for a similar remark on social media, in which he said that gay people will go to “Hell unless they repent” – an incident that led to the tightening of the social media guidelines in the new contract that he signed last October.
Folau was expected to be a key part of Michael Cheika's Australia squad in Japan for the World Cup later this year, but the head coach said on Monday that the way that he had expressed his religious beliefs meant it would be impossible to select him even if he was still available because he is supposed to be representing all of Australia.
"You wouldn't be able to," Cheika said of selecting Folau again. "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.
"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 now faces a hugely uncertain future given that he will not be able to join another Australian Super Rugby club due to RA’s stance, having already been stood down by the Waratahs. The Australian Rugby League have also ruled out a possible return to the 13-man code as his outburst does not meet their cultural values, while rugby union clubs in Europe are also wary about signing a player that will come with plenty of off-field baggage – Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal has already ruled his club out of the running.
The fallout has been felt in the northern hemisphere too after England No 8 Billy Vunipola supported Folau for his view on his own Instagram account, resulting in showdown talks with the Rugby Football Union.
Folau said on Sunday that he is willing to quit the sport if that if “God’s plan” for him, although he would prefer to keep playing the sport if allowed. However, he did not regret making his comments and stood by them, claiming that he was being persecuted for his belief in Christianity by people who had not understood the true meaning of what he was trying to say.
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