Israel Folau says he could quit rugby ‘if God wants’ after homophobia row

Israel Folau watches on during a Waratahs Super Rugby training session at David Phillips Sports Complex on March 25, 2019 in Sydney, Australia.

Australian rugby star Israel Folau has said he could walk away from the sport and dedicate himself to God, after declining to apologise for anti-gay comments.

In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald at his church on Sunday (April 14), the player declined to walk back social media posts that warned gay people: “HELL AWAITS YOU.”

Rugby Australia and New South Wales Rugby have both said that they intend to terminate the player’s contract over the row, ejecting him from the Australian national team the New South Wales Waratahs.

Israel Folau: I can’t change the word of God

But asked if he regretted his comments, Folau said: “Absolutely not. I’ll stand on what the Bible says. I share it with love.

“I can see the other side of the coin where people’s reactions are the total opposite to how I’m sharing it.”

He added: “I can’t change what the word of God says.”

Irael Folau of the Waratahs looks on during the round 8 Super Rugby match between the Blues and Waratahs at Eden Park on April 06, 2019 in Auckland, New Zealand.

Irael Folau of the Waratahs looks on during the round 8 Super Rugby match between the Blues and Waratahs at Eden Park on April 06, 2019 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty)

Speaking to the newspaper, Folau said he is prepared to leave the sport if he has to.

He said: “It’s obviously a decision that’s in the process right now but I believe in a God that’s in control of all things.

The player continued: “First and foremost, I live for God now. Whatever He wants me to do, I believe His plans for me are better than whatever I can think. If that’s not to continue on playing, so be it.

“In saying that, obviously I love playing footy and if it goes down that path I’ll definitely miss it. But my faith in Jesus Christ is what comes first.”

Rugby teams set to sack Israel Folau over homophobia row

The rugby star, who is Christian, posted messages on Instagram and Twitter on Wednesday (April 10) telling “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters” that “hell awaits” unless they “repent.”

The messages were published hours after Tasmania passed sweeping reforms to permit people 16 or older to change their registered gender, removing requirements for transgender people to undergo surgery in order to have their legal gender recognised.

Rugby Australia and New South Wales Rugby said in a joint statement on Thursday (April 11): “Whilst Israel is entitled to his religious beliefs, the way in which he has expressed these beliefs is inconsistent with the values of the sport. We want to make it clear that he does not speak for the game with his recent social media posts.

“Israel has failed to understand that the expectation of him as a Rugby Australia and NSW Waratahs employee is that he cannot share material on social media that condemns, vilifies or discriminates against people on the basis of their sexuality.

“Rugby is a sport that continuously works to unite people. We want everyone to feel safe and welcome in our game and no vilification based on race, gender, religion or sexuality is acceptable and no language that isolates, divides or insults people based on any of those factors can be tolerated.

“As a code we have made it clear to Israel formally and repeatedly that any social media posts or commentary that is in any way disrespectful to people because of their sexuality will result in disciplinary action. In the absence of compelling mitigating factors, it is our intention to terminate his contract.”