The Rugby Football Union, England’s top governing body for rugby union, will fly the rainbow pride flag at a London stadium on Sunday after Israel Folau was picked for a match.
Folau will join team World XV in a match against the Barbarians at Twickenham Stadium this weekend. Both teams comprise players from around the world.
It’s been four years since Rugby Australia sacked Israel Folau over social media posts declaring hell awaits “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers” and others.
Asked about the pick, World XV coach Steve Hansen said he welcomed the flag and the team chose Folau on merit but doesn’t agree with his views.
Hansen said the flag was a direct result of Folau’s selection and that was “a good thing”.
“It’s an opportunity to show support to that flag. There wouldn’t be one there if Israel wasn’t playing,” he said.
“So whenever we can bring attention to people who are suffering in a positive way, that’s good.
“They deserve to be loved and cared for as much as anybody else. If we all did that, the world would be a happy place, wouldn’t it?”
The rugby coach said World XV chose Israel Folau because he’s a “world-class” rugby player.
“And I know by picking him that there will be some people hurt. And I get that,” he said.
“However, I want those people to understand that Israel’s belief and views are not ours. And we don’t agree with them.
“But he’s a rugby player first and foremost. He’s been sanctioned. Those sanctions have finished. He’s playing rugby. He’s probably going to go to the World Cup.
“My job is to pick the best team I can pick and that’s what I’ve done.”
Gay ex-Wallaby Dan Palmer speaks out in Folau documentary
Last week, the ABC revisited the Israel Folau saga in two-part documentary Folau.
Former rugby union player Dan Palmer, who became the first Wallaby to come out as gay in 2020, speaks in the series about his profound struggle with his sexuality during his career.
“It was really difficult to reconcile those two seemingly competing ideas,” Dan recalled.
“On one hand I was gay and on the other hand I wanted to be a rugby player.
“When you’re deeply closeted, especially in a sporting environment, what you’re really looking for or hoping for is acceptance.
“And the ability to pursue your dreams regardless of who you happen to be.”
Dan went on, “I’ve heard from hundreds of people across the world who were deeply affected by the Israel situation. It cuts into some of your deepest fears.
“There were many prominent voices in global rugby who came out against his position. [They] acknowledged that as a rugby community we don’t accept these views and that he doesn’t speak for us.”
The two-part documentary Folau is streaming on ABC iview.
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