Folau's views not dividing Wallabies: Cheika

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Michael Cheika says there will be no fractures in his team ahead of June because of Israel Folau, with the Wallabies coach stressing he believes rugby is a game for everyone.

Folau has courted controversy with a series of social media posts, including an Instagram comment suggesting gay people were going to hell, polarising fans with his views.

Folau’s Wallabies teammate David Pocock has been a vocal advocate for marriage equality, but Cheika said the pair had spoken at a recent camp in Queensland and was confident their relationship was fine.

“We were all together in the camp for the couple of days we were there, just getting on with business. What else can you do?,” he said.

“They were together talking and I know they've been talking as well and communicating since the camp as well, trying to help each other.”

Cheika was asked in Tuesday’s press conference whether the Folau situation would be treated differently had he made a comment about race, a question the coach bristled at, drawing on his own experience to point to rugby’s inclusiveness.

“One thing I know from, with all this debate going on and all the things that have been said, is that rugby is a game that everyone can play and everyone can get along, whether are you from different countries or from different places in Australia or from different demographics, different religions, different genders,” he said.

“That's what gets on my nose (when I’m asked those questions), it's a game for everyone.

“It always has been. Look at me -  (I was an) ethnic kid growing up in a different era, I was one of the few ethnic kids playing rugby at the time and no one said boo to me.

“It was, ‘Come and play and one of my best mates was (former Wallabies captain) Simon Poidevin, a typical rugby guy through and through, and we're still best mates today.

“When guys say that, it makes me disappointed because I go, ‘That's the way it is’, and even when you don't all agree, you still all get on.

“You ask me that question about David and Israel, if anything it allows them to have more of a connection in the fact that they can discuss whatever they're talking about and getting on with it, because that's exactly what they've been able to do.”

The Waratahs want to keep Israel Folau. Photo: Getty ImagesCheika was adamant Folau’s comments would have no effect on the Wallabies in June, and that the fullback didn’t want to become a hindrance on the team.

“I think what's more important is he doesn't want to create that,” he said.

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

“I know we take that time here (to talk about these issues), but we've also got to look at the footy he's been playing as well, which has been pretty good since he's been back from injury.”

The Wallabies play their June Series against Ireland next month, kicking off in Brisbane on June 9, at 8pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RADIO. Buy tickets here.