Cheika: Israel Folau's anti-gay comments won't distract from Ireland's tour to Australia

By Stephen Barry

Michael Cheika has said that star player Israel Folau won't cause any media distraction like his recent anti-gay comments when Ireland travel to Australia.

Folau has not been sanctioned by Rugby Australia for his comments, which stem from his religious beliefs, despite opposition from some sponsors and fans.

The Wallabies head coach said the issue is over for them, and that Folau won't be creating any more controversy during Ireland's tour down under.

“He does understand it (the potential for his views to be a distraction), yeah, but what’s more important is that he doesn’t want to create that,” Cheika told local reporters.

“He wants to play the footy he’s been playing the last few weeks, which has been awesome.

“It’s not going to be an issue, because it’s not going to be ongoing. You can interpret it how you like.”

In April, Folau wrote on social media that God's plan for gay people was "HELL.. Unless they repent of their sins and turn to God".

In a subsequent blog post entitled 'I am a sinner too', he wrote: "It has been suggested that I am homophobic and bigoted and that I have a problem with gay people. This could not be further from the truth.

"I fronted the cover of the Star Observer magazine to show my support for the Bingham Cup, which is an international gay rugby competition for both men and women. I believe in inclusion. In my heart, I know I do not have any phobia towards anyone."

Folau's Australia teammate David Pocock was a vocal supporter of same-sex marriage vote last year which led to its legalisation. Folau opposed the vote.

Cheika, however, said their clash on the issue won't manifest itself in the dressing room.

“(Folau and Pocock) were together talking. I know they’ve been talking as well and communicating since the camp.

“If anything it allows them to have more of a connection in the fact they can discuss whatever they’re talking about and getting on with it. Because that’s exactly what they’ve been able to do.

“Not everyone always agrees with each other but when we get out here and play in the jersey together, we all get along.

“Rugby is a game where everyone can play and everyone can get along... it always has been.

“Look at me, I was one of the few ethnic kids playing rugby at the time and nobody said boo to me, it was ‘come and play, do your best’.”

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