Israel Folau, the former Australian rugby star who has been embroiled in controversy over recent years, is scheduled to start on the wing for the World XV against the Barbarians at Twickenham on Sunday. Folau will be joined in the backline by the likes of Charles Piutau, Semi Radradra and Adam Hastings, making for a thoroughly exciting backline.
Folau is widely regarded as one of the most talented rugby players of his generation having made a name for himself thanks to his speed, skill, and athleticism on the field. Folau, however, has also been a controversial figure in recent years due to his outspoken views on social and political issues. In 2019, he was sacked by Rugby Australia following a series of controversial social media posts, in which he was deemed to have made homophobic and transphobic remarks.
The decision to select Folau has divided opinion among rugby fans and commentators. While some have praised the Barbarians for prioritizing talent over controversy, others have criticized the move as a tacit endorsement of Folau’s controversial views.
One person right at the centre of these accusations is the World XV coach, Steve Hansen, who has been heavily criticised for selecting the former Aussie international.
Hansen has, however, set the record straight with his reasoning for choosing Folau, stating that his beliefs differ from the player and that the selection was based purely on rugby talent:
🗣️ “I want those people hurt to understand that Israel’s beliefs are not ours. And we don’t agree with them.”
Steve Hansen insisted his selection of Israel Folau for a World XV was based only on rugby ability and not Folau’s views on the LGBTQ+ community https://t.co/CBmt5wrcqy
— Times Sport (@TimesSport) May 23, 2023
“He’s world class. And I know by picking him that there will be some people hurt. I get that.
“However, I want those people to understand that Israel’s beliefs and views are not ours. And we don’t agree with them.
“But he’s a rugby player first and foremost and he’s been sanctioned. Those sanctions have finished, he’s playing rugby, he’s probably going to go to the World Cup so my job is to pick the best team I can pick.
“I think [flying the pride flag] is great. It’s a consequence of Folau’s selection and I think it’s a good thing. It’s an opportunity to show support to that flag. I don’t have a problem with it.
“Whenever we can bring attention to people who are suffering in a positive way, that’s good.”
Whatever the case, there is no denying that Folau’s selection for the Barbarians will make for an interesting storyline in the world of rugby. With his talent and skill on the field, he is sure to make an impact in the match, and fans will be watching closely to see how he performs.