Rugby Australia terminates Folau contract

Ultra-religious Wallabies star Israel Folau has had his Rugby Australia contract terminated.
Ultra-religious Wallabies star Israel Folau has had his Rugby Australia contract terminated.

Wallabies superstar Israel Folau remains adamant he should be allowed to keep playing, but Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle warned him to think hard about his next move after sacking him on Friday.

Folau's decorated six-year career in the code appears over after an independent three-person panel found his controversial social media posts warranted his sacking.

Castle announced on Friday that RA had terminated his four-year, $4 million contract for posting a biblical quote which said "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters" would go to hell unless they repented.

The three-times John Eales Medallist released a statement saying he was "deeply saddened" by the decision and that he was considering his options.

"As Australians, we are born with certain rights, including the right to freedom of religion and the right to freedom of expression," his statement read.

"The Christian faith has always been a part of my life and I believe it is my duty as a Christian to share God's word.

"Upholding my religious beliefs should not prevent my ability to work or play for my club and country."

Folau has 72 hours to appeal, a move that would necessitate a new panel to preside over a second financially draining code of conduct hearing.

It's been estimated Folau has already shelled out more than $100,000 fighting for his career, with a law employment expert predicting the 30-year-old would be spending $25,000 a week on legal fees.

"I'd certainly hope that Mr Folau takes that into consideration when he thinks about his next step," Castle said.

But having already rejected a reported $1 million peace offering from Rugby Australia to walk away, the fundamental Christian has made it clear this is not about money.

The most divisive issue in Australian sport could yet wind up in the courts - and drag on for months and possibly even years.

But while saddened by the whole affair and to lose Super Rugby's all-time leading try-scorer, Castle is adamant there is no longer a place in Australian rugby for Folau.

Especially not while he continued to refuse to take down his inflammatory posts, or show any remorse, after being warned about similar posts last year.

"We want to stress that this outcome is a painful situation for the game," Castle said.

"Rugby Australia did not choose to be in this situation, but Rugby Australia's position remains that Israel, through his actions, left us with no choice but to pursue this course of action.

"But our clear message to all rugby fans today is that we need to stand by our values and the qualities of inclusion, passion, integrity, discipline, respect and teamwork."

With Wallabies teammate Taniela Tupou posting on Facebook last month that RA "may as well sack" him "and all other Pacific Islands players around the world" for sharing the same Christian beliefs, the Folau verdict also threatens to prompt a backlash from Polynesians in Australia's Test ranks.

But Castle said she was "100 per cent confident" there'd be no boycott of the gold jumper in protest and that Wallabies coach Michael Cheika would assemble an otherwise full-strength squad to take to Japan for this year's World Cup.

"I've communicated directly with the players to make it clear that Rugby Australia fully supports their right to their own beliefs and nothing that has happened changes that," Castle said.

"But when we are talking about inclusiveness in our game, we're talking about respecting differences as well."

Two-time World Cup-winning Wallabies legend Tim Horan hoped the code could now regroup after the drama but admitted Folau would be missed.

"There's always other players to come along and fill in positions. But when there's a player of his stature, it is hard to replace," Horan said on Fox Sports.

"It will certainly hurt the Waratahs and the Wallabies ... It's sad, but it's probably the right decision by Rugby Australia. I don't think they had too many other options."

Australian Associated Press