Rugby Australia is facing a potential Polynesian player mutiny after one of the Wallabies’ most exciting prospects claimed all Pacific Islanders “might as well just be sacked” because of their religious beliefs.
In an explosive development days out from Israel Folau’s attempt to save his multimillion-dollar career at an RA code of conduct hearing, Queensland Reds and Wallabies prop Taniela Tupou took to Facebook to express his support for the under-fire superstar.
“Seriously ?????????? Might as well sack me and all the other Pacific Islands rugby players around the world because we have the same Christian beliefs ??????,” Tupou posted late on Tuesday night.
“I will never apologise for my faith and what i believe in, religion had nothing to do with rugby anyways ???????? #TYJ”
Tupou, aka “Tongan Thor”, attached a link to an earlier post from fellow Wallabies teammate and Reds captain Samu Kerevi, who felt compelled to apologise for taking to Instragram at Easter thanking “Jesus for dying on the cross for me. I love you Jesus#”.”
“I appreciate the kind words from everyone,” Kerevi posted.
“But to be clear I’m not apologising for my faith in Jesus Christ my saviour.
“God will always come first in my life and many other professional rugby players.
“Today, I felt things were taken out of context in regards to certain articles.
“I do not feel obliged to apologise to people because of the situation happening right now with a brother of mine.”
Tupou’s sensational “sack me or back Folau” ultimatum is sure to turn the heat up on Rugby Australia, who last month issued Folau with a breach of contract notice following his latest round of controversial posts.
The three-time John Eales Medallist had been previously warned by RA about his social media conduct and the governing body subsequently announced its intention to terminate his contract.
Folau has been stood down by the NSW Waratahs after posting a Bible passage last month claiming hell awaits “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolators” unless they repent and turn to Jesus Christ.
Folau will front a three-person tribunal – comprising chair John West, RA”s representative Kate Eastman SC and the RUPA-appointed John Boultbee SC – on Saturday.
However, Folau has since received backing from England star Billy Vunipola, who liked Folau’s post and called for people to “live their lives how God intended”.
Brisbane-born Vunipola was himself slapped with a warning by his English club Saracens over his defence of Folau’s post and handed a “formal warning” by the English Rugby Football Union.
But Vunipola’s England teammates Manu Tuilagi, Nathan Hughes, Courtney Lawes – who wrote his own post defending Vunipola’s right to express his opinion – and Wales’ backrower Taulupe Faletau all “liked” Vunipola’s social media post.
It’s a huge concern for Wallabies coach Michael Cheika ahead of this year’s World Cup – a third of Australia’s last Test line-up of 2018 were Polynesian.