Folau controversy an opportunity for education: Gibson

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson says the controversy surrounding star Israel Folau is a good lesson for others around social media.

Folau met with Rugby AU CEO Raelene Castle and NSW Rugby CEO Andrew Hore on Tuesday over a divisive Instagram post that said God's plan for gay people was 'HELL...unless they repent their sins and turn to God." 

The 29-year-old followed that comment up by tweeting a Bible verse suggesting that he was being persecuted for his views.

Castle and Hore opted against sanctioning Folau for the controversy, instead trying to remind the devout Christian of the impact that public comments can have on others.

Folau stopped short of making a commitment to change his approach on social media, committed to his faith.

Gibson said the furore was a chance for the club to provide more education around the use of social media and its wider impact.

"For me the opportunity in the situation as a head coach is looking at how we can further educate our players around using social media as a platform," he said.

"It's something as an organisation and taking our responsibility seriously, around stepping up and making sure we're doing a good job in ensuring our players conduct themselves well and be very mindful in how their tweets and comments potentially can be perceived by those in the public."

Gibson said he had spoken to Folau about the issue and echoed the message from the national body and the Waratahs in recent days, that has been about the balance between respecting individuals' views and understanding the wider perception of comments.

"(It was) very similar to what Andrew and Raelene have conducted with him," he said.

"We're respectful as an organisation and I don't think Israel meant to cause any offence to anyone."

Gibson said the issue hadn't divided the team.

"In any team, you're going to have a range of different beliefs on a number of different issues.

"The great thing about society is we all don't agree on different issues.

"What we do agree on is the respect to hold a particular belief or view and that freedom of expression.

"What we have to be mindful of is when we comment in public, how that may be perceived or the ramifications of making that comment.

"I think that's the opportunity for us, as a team, is something to be mindful of."

Folau had his first run at Waratahs training on Wednesday, as he works his way back from a hamstring injury, expected to be fit for the Waratahs' May 5 clash with the Blues.

The Waratahs host the Reds at the SCG on Saturday night, kicking off at 7:45pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RADIO. Buy tickets here.