The Waratahs would be sad to see Israel Folau leave the club, despite a string of recent controversies, lock Ned Hanigan says.
Folau comes off contract at the end of 2018 and is reportedly considering a move to the Queensland Reds, if he opts to stay in rugby.
Waratah coach Daryl Gibson said last month that NSW was keen to keep Folau in rugby and the star fullback is also believed to be looking for a three-year contract to stay in the sport.
Folau has become a focal point of conversation in the past month over a series of controversial social media comments about homosexuality and religion.
Despite that furore, Hanigan said he wouldn’t want Folau to move on.
"I think you'd be silly being a supporter or a player of the Waratahs hearing that he was going to leave (not to be disappointed),” he said.
"He's a good bloke to have around and I know as a young guy coming through in 2016, he was a guy who always carried himself with a smile, puts an arm around a young kid and outside we know whatever happens, happens.
"If you took a bloke of his stature and (he) comes up to you and just offers anything, it's special.”
Though Folau is playing rugby as well as ever, making a superb return from injury against the Blues last Saturday, his comments on social media are taking on a life of their own in the wider community.
met with Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle earlier this year after commenting on an Instagram post that God's plan for gay people was 'HELL...unless they repent their sins and turn to God'. but he has far from dialled down his social media activity since that meeting.
Folau posted an 11-minute video on Monday evening, from late American evangelist David Wilkerson, in which he expresses concern about the growth of 'tolerance' in modern society.
With great love i wanted to share this video in the hope that people watch it and think about it. Jesus is coming back soon and he wants us to turn to him through repentance and baptism in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38) please don't harden your heart https://t.co/PtDoPCQDco— Israel Folau (@IzzyFolau) May 7, 2018
When questioned about his views on Twiter, Folau only cemented his stance, writing, "Warning people of eternal punishment if they continue to live in their sin isn't judgmental. It's called love, i won't apologise for believing and following the word of God. May God open your eyes to what a true believer is. God bless!"
Warning people of eternal punishment if they continue to live in their sin isn't judgmental. It's called love, i won't apologise for believing and following the word of God. May God open your eyes to what a true believer is. God bless!— Israel Folau (@IzzyFolau) May 8, 2018
Hanigan said none of that had changed his opinion on Folau’s value as a teammate, though.
"His outside world is his outside world,” he said.
“But when he's here, he's here for the group, and I'd be immensely disappointed if he was going to leave because I like him as a guy, he's awesome on the field, he's a fella that you want to give the ball to because he creates stuff.
“No one can deny that.
"Hearing he is going to leave is a different thing. When he actually goes, yeah, I'd be a bit disappointed.”
Hanigan dismissed the suggestion that either Folau's contract talks or his social media chatter was any kind of distraction.
"No, not really and I can honestly say you guys saying that to me now is the first I've heard of it and that's a good thing,” he said.
“If that was circulating in the sheds, then obviously it would be an issue.
"But it's not for us because the way he's conducting himself around the group, he's keeping those two things separate, which is really good.”
The Waratahs take on the Crusaders on Saturday night, kicking off at 5:35pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS.