Long-time teammate Bernard Foley says Israel Folau has hurt the NSW Waratahs but isn’t a bad guy.
The superstar back was stood down by the NSW Rugby Union last Friday following the furore generated by his latest social media posting
He won’t play in Saturday’s crucial Super Rugby clash against Australian conference leaders Melbourne Rebels at the SCG.
Rugby Australia on Monday served Folau with a “high level” breach of contract notice following the latest in a series of homophobic social media posts.
He opted on Wednesday for a code of conduct hearing as opposed to accepting termination of his recently signed four-year contract.
The panel for the hearing, which is expected to be conducted over the next week or two, has been finalised, with John West QC the chair.
Rugby Australia’s Kate Eastman SC and Rugby Union Players’ Association representative John Boultbee AM are the other panellists, as Folau fights to save his rugby career.
Foley has played alongside him for the Waratahs and Wallabies since the code hopper switched to rugby union before the 2013 season.
Asked on Friday how he felt about Folau, Foley said he was conflicted.
“I think he’s hurt the team, which is not what we’re doing and not why we play sport. We’re a team and we encourage diversity.
“I also don’t think Izzy is a bad guy, so there’s a lot of conflict there, but I don’t agree with what he’s done so it’s a tough situation.”
Questioned about how Folau was hurting the Waratahs Foley said: “We’re not talking about a game, we’re not talking about the match tomorrow night, which we should be.”
Foley said he hadn’t spoken to Folau but had received a couple of texts.
If Folau is allowed back into the Waratahs fold, Foley hopes they can talk to him to try to understand the choices he has made.
“That’s something that we would do, is sit down and talk to him about the rules of the team and how the team has to come first for all players,” Foley said.
“Because that’s why we play the game. It’s not just individuals who win games.”