Sydney – Israel Folau has requested a code of conduct hearing to challenge Rugby Australia’s decision to sack him over anti-gay comments, officials announced on Wednesday.
The 30-year-old Wallabies fullback, who was issued a code of conduct breach by the governing body on Monday, had sparked an uproar last week for posting on his Instagram account that “Hell awaits” homosexuals.
“Israel has responded formally today to request a Code of Conduct hearing which, under the circumstances, was not an unexpected outcome,” Rugby Australia chief Raelene Castle said in a statement.
With the hearing likely to be delayed by two imminent public holidays, Folau’s decision has thrust the governing body into a protracted and difficult situation just five months before the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Rugby Australia has made it clear that his presence in the sport is no longer tenable, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has declared that he would not select Folau again and national team sponsor Qantas also condemned the player’s social media stance.
But the independent three-person tribunal could choose not to find Folau guilty of a code of conduct breach, or issue him a suspension instead that could see him return to the game.
That would force Rugby Australia to decide whether to tear up his lucrative Aus$4 million (US$2.9 million) four-year contract that was signed in February.
On Sunday Folau, Super Rugby’s record try-scorer, told the Sydney Morning Herald he was ready for life without rugby, saying, “I live for God now”.
“Whatever His will is, whether that’s to continue playing or not, I’m more than happy to do what He wants me to do,” Folau said.