AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND — APRIL 06: Israel Folau of the Waratahs looks on during the round 8 Super Rugby match between the Blues and Waratahs at Eden Park on April 06, 2019 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND — APRIL 06: Israel Folau of the Waratahs looks on during the round 8 Super Rugby match between the Blues and Waratahs at Eden Park on April 06, 2019 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

Hidden trainwreck inside Folau crisis

The cloud over divisive Wallabies fullback Israel Folau thickens by the day as the devout Christian fights for his right to continue to fill the nation's No. 15 jersey.

The 30-year-old superstar was issued a breach notice from Rugby Australia after posting homosexuals would go to hell on his Instagram. A Code of Conduct hearing to decide his fate will be held within the next 10 days.

With the World Cup approaching, the loss of Folau - an experienced and imposing force in the backline - would be devastating to the sixth-ranked side.

But former Wallabies star and columnist Peter FitzSimons suggested the act of producing a storm of controversy over the already damaged state of rugby in Australia was enough proof Folau wasn't suited to represent the nation again.

"(He's) lost the dressing room," FitzSimons said on Sports Sunday. "Whatever happens, this is a trainwreck. The only thing we need to work out is how many casualties will there be - who is going to be left standing at the end of it? How hard is he going to fight it?

"He will not play for the Wallabies again. Certainly not under that coach."

FitzSimons said players were being pushed through a needlessly distracting saga ahead of stressful World Cup preparation, all while media swoops in to probe the playing group on what has been another easily avoided controversy for rugby Down Under.

"Stop. Why are you doing this? From the moment you pressed that button, it was absolutely automatic that you would engulf the entire team with a distraction that will go for weeks - why did you do that?" FitzSimons implored.

Australian vice-captain Will Genia was one of the first to publicly condemn Folau, while star flanker David Pocock has a history of clashing politically with the fullback.

"You can't be going around spreading hate and telling people they're going to hell," Genia said via Fox Sports this week. "You can have your beliefs and have faith in what you have faith in but you can't go around and tell people they're going to hell because they are a certain way."

Channel 10 star Waleed Aly also weighed in on the hot topic on ABC's Offsiders Sunday morning, deliberating over the "interesting" contract battle has presented.

"Rugby will argue he's not being sacked for his religion, he's being sacked for a particular tweet, which they regarded as offensive, and violated the terms of his contract," Aly said.

If anything, Israel Folau’s comments have produced a needless distraction for the Wallabies ahead of the World Cup.
If anything, Israel Folau’s comments have produced a needless distraction for the Wallabies ahead of the World Cup.

"He's tweeted about his religion for a very long time. Rugby haven't done anything about it.

"So, Folau will basically say, 'Well, you say you're not sacking me for my religion, sacking me for expressing it.'

"That's an artificial distinction. The way employment law sits, I think that's ultimately going to be the stronger case, is Rugby's case. You could have policy arguments, but I think that's where it sits the interesting bit for me."

Folau was suspended last week and did not take the field for the NSW Waratahs in their clash against the Melbourne Rebels.

Without Folau, who is the top try scorer in the Super Rugby competition, fly half Bernard Foley was forced to step up to the plate.

The Wallabies back scored a try and kicked two conversions and three penalties to account for all 16 of the Waratahs' points in the second half.

Kurtley Beale, who replaced Folau at fullback, had a strong kicking game while Foley outplayed his opposite No. 10 Quade Cooper.

"We knew if we stuck to our game plan and sharpened up in our penalties we were a real shot," said Waratahs captain Michael Hooper, who played his 100th match for the team.

"That bloke has so much ticker," Hooper said of Foley. "He rises to the challenge when he gets put under the pump. He had a great game and led us so well."


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