Folau stands behind beliefs ahead of Waratahs return

Super Rugby

Waratahs and Wallabies star Israel Folau has affirmed his religious beliefs speaking to media for the first time since a controversial tweet about gay people.

Speaking to media for the first time since a controversial tweet suggesting God’s plan for gay people ‘is HELL unless their repent their sins and turn to God’.

Folau has received public criticism from opponents for his comments, but has also had a great deal of support from many who share his views.

The 29-year-old said he hadn’t been affected by any of the backlash and his own comments were not aimed as a personal affront either.

Israel Folau knew immediately that he was gone. Photo: Walmsley“No, absolutely not. I don't take anything personally,” he said.

“I understand everyone is entitled to their opinions and I've said what I've said in recent weeks. I leave it there,” he said.

"I stand firm in what I believe in and that's something personal with who I am.

"But it's got nothing to do (with being) personal against anyone; teammates or anyone that's involved in the game.

"I'm the same person and I hope that I can portray that by being around the team and going out and putting my best foot forward and playing the best rugby I can.”

Folau stopped short of saying he should change the way he uses social media, pointing to a column he wrote for sports website PlayersVoice as something he hoped had helped the public understand his view.

"Obviously everyone will have different opinions on that,” he said.

“I brought out that piece in the Players' Voice where I've opened up a bit and hopefully from my point of view a lot of people outside of that can see where I come from and why I said that.

“But, like I said, for me that's something that I hold dearly to me and it's not going to change and I stand firm on that.

"But, as a rugby player, it doesn't change who I am as a person. I'm the same person when I go on the field.

"I enjoy being around all the guys, wanting to try and help everyone. At the end of the day, I'm here to try and do a job and that's play the best rugby I can for the team.

The Waratahs want to keep Israel Folau. Photo: Getty ImagesFolau, who is off contract at the end of 2018,  said the dramas hadn’t changed his mindset when it came to staying in the code.

"No, absolutely not. It's nothing personal,” he said.

“At the end of the day, you're an adult, you've got to clear those things up and you've got to look at what are the main things out of it.”

“You can't hold grudges, you can't take anything personally. I've been fine with how everything's rolled out the last month.

"My focus is obviously on getting back out there on the field, which is an exciting time for me.”

On-field, Folau will be back at fullback for the Waratahs this weekend, after playing a string of impressive games on the wing before injuring his hamstring.

The Waratahs have utilised Folau as an aerial threat on the wing, and he said he could still play that role despite the positional switch.

"I enjoyed playing in both roles and just because I've got the No.15 jersey, I can still mix and match with using that certain skill in some parts of the game,” he said.

"It's just a matter of talking to obviously the wingers and communicating that. So that's an option that's not entirely gone away.

“We're still using that whenever that suits obviously in the game.

"But working with Bernard (Foley), KB (Kurtley Beale) and just with the wingers in terms of when you can swap to use that tactic.”

The Waratahs take on the Blues at Brookvale Oval on Saturday night, kicking off at 7:45pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RADIO. Buy tickets here.