He criticised Israel’s Folau’s actions as selfish, but Will Genia admits feeling sorry for the banished Wallabies superstar and sad that he’s likely to be lost to rugby forever.
Gathering in Brisbane for a pre-World Cup Wallabies camp, Genia said it was a good chance for players to regroup following Folau’s contract termination.
Folau has until 3pm on Monday to appeal against the loss of his lucrative Rugby Australia contract after a three-person panel found on Friday that his controversial social media posts warranted his sacking.
It came after Folau last month defied RA warnings following a similar previous incident, posting a biblical quote which said “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters” would go to hell unless they repented.
At the time, Genia spoke out against his long-time Wallabies teammate, describing his actions as “selfish” and his view “completely wrong”.
But that didn’t stop the news of his termination rocking the Test halfback, who said it was the saddest experience he’d had as a rugby player.
He sent Folau a text following the decision to check on his welfare.
“I’m sad for the game and sorry for him and I just really hope he’s OK,” Genia said.
“At the end of the day he’s got feelings, he’s got emotions, he’s got a family and from all the time I’ve spent with him, he loves playing the game and to have that taken away from him, I’m sure he would be really upset.
“With everything that’s happened, he’s lost out on the opportunity to do what he loves and he’s still young and he’s an unbelievable player and he’s not going to be able to play the game anymore and that’s really sad.”
Springboks playmaker Handre Pollard spoke after his Bulls’ Super Rugby win over Melbourne and also said he was disappointed such a talent would be lost.
“Israel is probably one of the best players in the world, not just in Australia,” Pollard said.
“I don’t know all the details about it and I only know him from the locker room but not only an unbelievable talent, but he’s a great guy.
“Hopefully there’s a way we can still see him playing rugby because it’s an absolute treat.”
RA boss Raelene Castle said after the announcement she was confident the threat of a Polynesian player boycott would not eventuate, and Genia agreed.
“I can’t really speak on other people’s behalf but from my perspective, there’s nothing you can really do about it,” Genia said.
“The situation has been dealt with and you’ve just got to move forward.
“As sad as it is, at least there’s been some sort of conclusion to what’s happened and guys can learn from it and move on and do their best to understand why.”
Genia, who has played 100 Tests since 2009 and played in two World Cups, said the focus now needs to turn to the Japan tournament, which gets underway in September.
The Brisbane squad is similar to the one that assembled at the last two camps, based on last year’s Spring Tour squad, but with additions such as Quade Cooper, James Slipper and Luke Jones.
“That’s the whole purpose of the camps – getting guys together who are well and truly in the mix or who are going to be there,” Genia said.