Australian rugby star Israel Folau is facing a ban from the national side after claiming that gay people would go to hell.
The 30-year-old full-back, who is Australia’s best-paid rugby player, posted on Instagram last week to say that ‘hell awaits’ for ‘drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolators’.
Rugby chiefs have said his comments ‘warrant termination of his employment contract’.
But Folau has refused to back down, saying it was up to God whether he would carry on playing and insisting he would rather face the end of his career than retract his comments.
Centre of attention: Israel Folau is pictured playing for the New South Wales Waratahs (left) on April 6. He is facing a ban from the Australian national side after making homophobic comments (right) on Instagram
When asked if the fallout has made him reconsider his comments, Folau, a devout Christian, replied: ‘Absolutely not. I’ll stand on what the Bible says. I share it with love.
‘I can see the other side of the coin where people’s reactions are the total opposite to how I’m sharing it.
‘First and foremost, I live for God now. Whatever He wants me to do, I believe His plans for me are better than whatever I can think. If that’s not to continue on playing, so be it.
‘In saying that, obviously I love playing footy and if it goes down that path I’ll definitely miss it. But my faith in Jesus Christ is what comes first.’
Folau was warned for making similar a homophobic statement on social media in 2018 but escaped disciplinary action.
But following his latest comments rugby bosses said he had ‘committed a high-level breach warranting termination of his employment contract’.
Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle (right) speaks on the future of Folau on Monday, joined by Waratahs boss Andrew Hore (left)
Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle said: ‘Following the events of last year, Israel was warned formally and repeatedly about the expectations of him as 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.
‘We appreciate that this particular matter will attract significant interest, but due process must be followed.’
Folau’s club side, New South Wales Waratahs, have also dropped him and clubs in Europe will be wary of signing him, leaving his career in doubt.
Folau has been deemed by the union’s integrity unit to have committed a ‘high-level breach of the Professional Players’ Code of Conduct’, warranting the termination of his contract
He has virtually been ever-present in the Wallabies number 15 shirt since switching to rugby union from Australian Rules in 2013.
His sacking would be a massive blow to coach Michael Cheika at this year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Wallabies coach Cheika said earlier on Monday that he would not be able to pick Folau again due to the ‘disrespectful’ social media posts.
‘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,’ Cheika added.
‘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.’