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Folau row a Waratahs "teaching tool"

Israel Folau is posing problems for Rugby AU, and they aren't going away. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)
10th April, 2018
7

Israel Folau’s controversial social media posts have provided the NSW Waratahs with a “teaching tool” to educate players about online conduct, says coach Daryl Gibson.

Folau’s future in the code remains clouded after the Wallabies superstar declined to provide Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle with an assurance that he would cease making anti-gay posts on social media.

“It’s obviously new ground for everyone around the new age and how that’s pervasive in our society and I think as an organisation, while we do educate players every year around that usage, it’s a real opportunity for us to step that up and use this situation as a teaching tool,” Gibson said on Wednesday.

Devout christian Folau met with Castle and Waratahs chief executive Andrew Hore at RA headquarters on Tuesday following his Instagram post last week in which he said gay people are destined for hell unless they repent their sins and turn to God.

“For me, the opportunity in this situation as a head coach is looking at how we can further educate our players around using social media as a platform,” Gibson said.

“As an organisation (we are) taking our responsibility seriously around stepping up and making sure we’re doing a good job in ensuring that players conduct themselves well and be very mindful of how their tweets and comments can potentially be perceived by those in the public.”

Sidelined with a hamstring tear, Israel Folau cut a conspicuous figure as he worked quietly alongside other injured players at Waratahs training on Wednesday.

Coach Daryl Gibson said he didn’t believe the three-times John Eales Medallist had isolated himself from teammates because of his controversial expression of religious beliefs.

“In any team you’re going to have a range of different beliefs on a number of different issues,” Gibson said.

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“The great thing about society is we’re not all going to agree on different issues.

“What we do agree on is the respect to hold a particular belief or view and that freedom of expression.

“What we have to be mindful of is that when we make a comment in public, how that may be perceived … or the ramifications of any comment.”

Folau is off contract at the end of 2018, with NRL clubs certain to be circling as RA and the Waratahs battle to retain Australian rugby’s biggest star.

“I guess that’s something for the future,” Gibson said.

“At the moment, our focus has been on rugby and the team we’ve been moving well forward and that’s what we’re going to keep doing.”