Wallabies captain Michael Hooper says he is unaware of players being gagged during the Israel Folau saga and doesn’t believe the episode was disruptive to Australia’s World Cup campaign.
Star back Folau was sacked by Rugby Australia last year after posting on Instagram that hell awaits homosexuals and other sinners.
RA and NSW Waratahs prop Sekope Kepu said in court documents obtained by News Corp he was pulled from a Super Rugby media opportunity due to fears he might speak in Folau’s favour.
The 110-Test star, who now plays for London Irish, also suggested those players who supported Folau were effectively gagged by not being put up at media conferences, and the team was split.
Asked on Thursday if he thought players were muzzled or encouraged to toe the RA and Waratahs line at the time, Hooper said: “I was never in those conversations.
“But with this stuff you are the person that gets up and speaks or chooses not to speak.”
The openside flanker, who was both the Wallabies and Waratahs captain last year, was one of the first players to speak to the media after the Folau storm erupted.
“I’ve got no regrets, none at all,” Hooper said. “It’s our choice to stand here and speak or not.
“And I stood there and spoke and I’m standing here today, so no, none at all.”
Kepu also said the governing body’s handling of the matter had hurt the team’s chances leading to the World Cup but Hooper denied this.
“Not that I was aware of,” he said.
Meanwhile, incoming coach Dave Rennie is expected to draw a line under the saga when he puts his own stamp on the Wallabies culture when he starts in mid-year.
Hooper, who relinquished the Waratahs captaincy this year, had a brief meeting with Rennie on the coach’s recent flying visit to Australia while on a mid-season break with Scottish club Glasgow.
He said they hadn’t spoken about the Wallabies captaincy.
“A really good guy, a really personable bloke, got some good plans around the team,” Hooper said.
“Exciting initial ideas; he’s putting a nice team of assistants around him.”