Gareth Thomas asks England’s Billy Vunipola for ‘heartfelt apology’

Rugby player Gareth Thomas makes a point during the Rugby League Alitalia European Cup match between Wales and Ireland.

Openly gay former rugby international Gareth Thomas has hit out at England’s Billy Vunipola for supporting a homophobic Instagram post.

The former Wales captain, 44, asked Vunipola to make a “heartfelt apology” for supporting an anti-gay tirade posted on social media by Australian Israel Folau.

The Sarries and England forward, 26, was warned by his club for liking the social media post which said “hell awaits” gay people.

Vunipola was booed throughout his cup match on Saturday, April 20, and was confronted by a gesticulating opposition pitch invader.

The England player went on to score a late try and was named man of the match in the 32-16 win at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena.

NEATH, WALES – OCTOBER 17: Wales player Gareth Thomas in action during the Rugby League Alitalia European Cup match between Wales and Ireland at the Gnoll on October 17, 2010 in Neath, Wales. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Gareth Thomas has sympathy for Folau

Thomas spoke to Channel 4 Sport after Vunipola’s man of the match performance and said the England player’s initial apology was “unbelievably unacceptable.”

“It’s a very easy thing to say sorry, it’s very difficult to mean it,” Thomas added, “Billy, even though he’s not defending his own words, his beliefs in those words haven’t changed even though he’s made an apology.”

Thomas also expressed sympathy for the initial anti-gay post by Folau and explained: “what he’s said about being gay is almost a choice, is very uneducated.”

“Because I can tell you as a gay man myself, what I’ve been through in my life, if there was a choice, then probably at times I would have decided not to have been gay.”

The 44-year-old then addressed Vunipola directly: “I’ve never been told by anyone to go to hell in a very loving way, to me the apology doesn’t cut it,” he said.

Vunipola is Defending his views

During his post-match interview, Vunipola defended his views and said he’s motivated by being booed.

“People say I put my foot in it so I have to deal with it,” Vunipola told BBC Radio 5 Live: “It’s not something I’m afraid of. I probably have to expect that it’s going to keep happening.”

Vunipola said after the game on Saturday: “It was probably insensitive, but also something I strongly believe in. I’ll probably not be as honest as I have been about things that probably hurt a lot of people. I know that now.

“I’m not going to change the happy-go-lucky person I am. My faith is what got me to this position. It’s something I’ll stick by.”