Rugby Union: Folau sacked and Vunipola warned

By Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw

Israel Folau has been sacked by Australia Rugby Union (ARU) for his homophobic remarks and Billy Vunipola has received a formal warning from the Rugby Football Union (RFU) for defending his remarks.

Folau, a Christian Fundamentalist, posted in April a banner on his Instagram account declaring:

“Drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolators – Hell awaits you.”

A three-person ARU Panel, at a hearing requested by Folau, who had a deal until 2022, found him guilty of a “high level breach” of the ARU Players’ Code of Conduct. He has seventy-two hours in which to file an appeal.

On the other hand, Vunipola was given a formal warning by the RFU for supporting Folau’s remarks.

Welsh referee, Nigel Owens, who is himself gay and will officiate at the forthcoming Rugby World Cup in Japan later this year, supported the stance taken by the ARU and told the BBC:

“I respect their religion, I respect their beliefs and all I would like to ask is that they respect other people’s way of life…..”

And added:

“It’s a shame that it’s gone to this and none of us should take any pleasure in the fact that somebody has lost his job and lost his career.”

A big price for Folau to pay for his beliefs, but sport should be an all-inclusive activity that embraces all lifestyles and all sexual orientations!

Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw may be contacted by e-mail at ‘’