Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle are standing firm in the face of growing resentment in the wake of Israel Folau’s axing.
Castle believes the Wallabies’ World Cup campaign won’t be destabilised by any fallout from Folau’s contract termination.
However, former Wallaby coach Alan Jones is the latest to lash Rugby Australia’s decision to sack Folau, while some teammates have used social media to show their support.
Jones has been in Folau’s corner since his inflammatory Instagram post, which resulted in his four-year contract being torn up on Friday.
A long-time critic of RA and its chief executive Raelene Castle, Jones lashed the decision.
“There’s no surprise here…you’re dealing with incompetent people … and incompetent people always behave incompetently,” Jones said on 2GB on Friday.
“They’ve destroyed his employment and internationally destroyed his name for quoting a passage from the bible for God’s sake.”
Jones said that RA kowtowed to the demands of their major sponsor Qantas and its openly gay chief executive Alan Joyce.
Folau posted a biblical quote which said “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters” would go to hell unless they repented.
”There is only one issue here and that is they are getting money from a sponsor and apparently the sponsor has intervened and said he doesn’t like it. If that’s the case you find another sponsor,” Jones said.
”They have created the problem. Of course an employer has the rights [to sack him], but you actually don’t own the person.
”This is not in the workplace. This is outside the workplace for proclaiming his Christian faith. He hasn’t slaughtered anyone, he hasn’t insulted anyone and he hasn’t even tried to push this stuff down anyone’s throat.”
”I haven’t even found out who has taken offence. The drunks didn’t, the idolators didn’t, the fornicators didn’t. Who has taken offence? I’ve spoken to a lot of gay people and they haven’t taken offence.
“So I don’t know what this is all about, but it must be that there is a sponsor hanging off and rugby union is broke and so they pursue this money.”
A threat of a boycott from Folau’s Polynesian teammates amongst the Wallabies, who are also devout Christians, has hung over the saga.
There was no initial sign following the decision that they intended to follow through on that threat.
Reds prop Taniela Tupou, who last month posted on Facebook that RA “may as well sack” him “and all other Pacific Islands players around the world” for sharing the same Christian beliefs, sent his love to Folau.
He uploaded a photo to Instagram with the caption “Ofa Lahi Atu Doko”, which translates to “I love you my boy”.
He uploaded three photos of the pair to Facebook with the caption: “Good luck with your future endeavours toko Israel Folau! It’s definitely been an honour and a privilege to have played alongside you. Really going to miss you but I look forward to what the future has in store for you brother.”
Queensland captain and Wallabies centre Samu Kerevi said he would miss playing against Folau on Saturday night, when the Reds face the Waratahs.
“Tomorrow night won’t be the same without you there mana. God’s in Control, Always”.
Folau’s former NSW teammate Curtis Rona posted on Instagram: “Missing you brother”.
It was a surprisingly muted response from athletes from other sports.
Former NRL star Willie Mason questioned whether it had been a “trial by media”.
“After all the smoke has settled I wonder how many people think Izzy deserved a sacking? Not that many I’m thinking. Overreaction? Trial by media? Smh”
Castle certainly wasn’t concerned the decision would cause any disunity or split in the playing ranks.
“I’m 100 percent confident because those players understand that everyone has a right to their own views and their religious beliefs,” she said.
“As long as they continue to express them in a respectful way we will continue to support them.
“I have absolute confidence (coach) Michael Cheika is going to build a Wallaby team that will be incredibly competitive in the Rugby World Cup.”
The RA boss, Castle, later sat down with rugby.com.au and in a 17-minute video laid all the blame for the saga and the fallout at the door of Folau.