Israel Folau is to be sacked by Rugby Australia after refusing to respond to attempts to contact him following his homophobic and hateful social media outburst, ruling him out of this year’s Rugby World Cup.
In a joint statement issued by Rugby Australia and his club, the New South Wales Waratahs, it was confirmed that the failure of the 73-cap international to respond to the governing body – as well as his representatives – has left them with the “intention to terminate his contract”.
RA’s integrity unit attempted to make contact with Folau on Thursday but could not reach the former rugby league and AFL player, and a decision has been taken “in the absence of compelling mitigating factors” to issue notice to him of their intention to tear up his contract.
A statement issued by RA chief executive Raelene Castle and NSW Rugby Union CEO Andrew Hore read: “Rugby Australia and the New South Wales Rugby Union have made repeated attempts to contact Israel both directly and via his representatives since 6.30pm on Wednesday, and at this point he had failed to communicate directly with either organisation.
“Whilst Israel is entitled to his religious beliefs, the way in which he has expressed these beliefs is inconsistent with the values of the sport. We want to make is clear that he does not speak for the game with his recent social media posts.
“Israel has failed to understand that the expectation of him as a Rugby Australia and NSW Waratahs employee is that he cannot share material on social media that condemns, vilifies or discriminates against people on the basis of their sexuality.
“Rugby is a sport that continuously works to unite people. We want everyone to feel safe and welcome in our game and no vilification based on race, gender, religion or sexuality is acceptable and no language that isolates, divides or insults people based on any of those factors can be tolerated.
“As a code we have made it clear to Israel formally and repeatedly that and social media posts or commentary that is in any way disrespectful to people because of their sexuality will result in disciplinary action.
“In the absence of compelling mitigating factors, it is our intention to terminate his contract.”
Folau only agreed terms with RA last October and had more than three years left to run on the deal, which was worth a reported A$4m (£2.19m) a year. He could yet respond to the governing body with an explanation for his recent actions that can be taken into consideration, but unless he resurfaces RA are ready to sack him just five months out from the Rugby World Cup.
Folau is arguably Australia’s most influential player in Michael Cheika’s squad, scoring 37 tries in his 73 Test appearances that puts him level-third on the all-time try scorers list alongside teammate Adam Ashley-Cooper. Only Australian rugby legends David Campese (64) and Chris Latham (40) have more.
He would have been one of the first names on the squad list for both the World Cup and the Rugby Championship, which begins in July, but it appears that his comments have cost him both his place in Cheika’s plans and also his career with both Australia and the Waratahs.
Folau has also faced a fierce backlash from fellow professionals after posting a message on Instagram on Wednesday that claimed “Hell awaits you” for “Drunks, Homosexuals, Adulterers, Liars, Fornicators, Thieves, and Atheists” in a religious-based tirade. The incident is the second in the space of a year to involve homophobic comments and Folau, after he posted a comment on the same social media platform last April that God’s plan for homosexuals is “HELL. Unless they repent of their sins and turn to God.”
That led to a warning from RA and subsequently tighter social media regulations in his new contract, which he now appears to have breached.
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