Former Leinster coach Michael Cheika is fully behind Rugby Australia’s decision to sack Israel Folau. The Wallabies boss said that he would not have been able to select the talented full back following his latest social media post attacking gay people. Folau posted a message on Instagram which read "Drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolators - Hell awaits you."
The devout Christian escaped punishment for similar comments last year, but Rugby Australia say he “had committed a high-level breach of the Professional Players' Code of Conduct warranting termination of his employment contract". Folau told the Sydney Morning Herald that he was standing by “what the Bible says” and that he made the comments “with love.”
Rugby and Religion is nothing new. There were protests outside Ravenhill when Ulster played their first Heineken Cup match on a Sunday. A full house still attended the 2004 game against Leicester and the province recorded an impressive win. New Zealand legend Michael Jones missed three Sunday games at the 1991 Rugby World Cup due to his religious beliefs. He was omitted from the 1995 World Cup squad as he would have been unavailable for the quarter final and the semi final. Former Scotland prop Euan Murray announced in 2009 that he would no longer play on Sunday due to his Christian beliefs. Former Ireland and Ulster wing Andrew Trimble, who studied Theology at Belfast Bible College, played on Sundays, but read Psalm 84 before each match.
Folau has won 73 caps and was expected to play at this year's World Cup in Japan. The 30-year-old says he will miss playing “footy”, but “my faith in Jesus Christ is what comes first." Plenty of sportspeople have made sacrifices for their convictions. Michael Cheika says the Wallabies support Folau’s right to his beliefs, but he cannot express those in a “disrespectful manner”.