Wallabies halfback Will Genia say Australia can still win the World Cup without stood-down fullback Israel Folau.
Folau appears unlikely to return to the Wallabies fold even if an upcoming code of conduct hearing finds in his favour, after posting a homophobic picture on Instagram.
“You can’t be out there spreading hate and telling people that they’re going to go to hell," he said on Fox Sports' Rugby Podcast.
“You can have your beliefs and have faith in what you want to have faith in but you can’t go around trying to tell people they should be going to hell because they are a certain way.
“For me that’s completely wrong.”
Genia said his dealings with Folau in camp had always been positive but he didn't support the way that the star fullback went about expressing his
“The Israel that I know, that I see every day when I’ve been in Wallabies environments and camps — he’s a lovely guy,” he said.
“He’s very humble, very quiet, he’s very giving of his time to his teammates, to people in general.
“So for him to come out and have said and done the things that he’s done, it makes it pretty uncomfortable for a lot of people.”
Genia said the incident would have impacted hugely on Folau's personal relationship with Wallabies coach Michael Cheika.
“I know that Cheik is someone who respects him massively," he said.
“He’s got a lot of time, a lot of love for him and has supported him all the way through.
“I know that he’ll be very, very disappointed with everything that’s happened, for sure.
“I don’t think I’ll get the opportunity to play with him again, definitely.
“Izzy can have every right to believe in the things that he wants to and have faith in the things he wants to have faith in but he’s got to realise that there are other people within that group, both at the Waratahs and Wallabies, that have certain beliefs as well, that very much conflict with what he’s come out and said and done.”
Genia said he was confident the Wallabies could still succeed with at the World Cup without Folau.
“Purely from a rugby perspective, when you’re just talking rugby and you take out everything else — which I know you can’t — any team with Israel will be better with him it,” he said.
“His playing ability, he’s phenomenal, he will score you tries that 90 per cent of the players in the world won’t.
“He will always attract two or three defenders, he will always beat two or three defenders and look for the offload, he’s a phenomenal, phenomenal, phenomenal player.
“Like I said, I back anyone else to take his position, but at the same time you will always know that if you’re going to have a guy like him in the team you’re going to be better for it.
“I’m just going to be honest about that because it’s easy to kick him while he’s down and say ‘we don’t need you, we’ll be better off without you’ like other people have said, but I don’t think that’s true.”
EARLIER: Folau will fight to save his Australian rugby career after requesting a Code of Conduct hearing in response to Rugby Australia's breach notice.
Folau had until 2pm AEST on Wednesday to respond to the notice wand the star fullback indicated he would not be accepting Rugby Australia's sanction, forcing the matter to a hearing.
Had he accepted the breach notice, Folau's contract would have been terminated without any financial compensation.
In a statement on Wednesday, Rugby Australia said a date was yet to be set for the hearing, at which a three-person panel will determine whether Folau has breached the Code Of Conduct to the point that he warrants termination.
"Rugby Australia will now make arrangements with the Rugby Union Players' Association (RUPA) to bring together the Code of Conduct hearing," the statement read.
"Israel has responded formally today to request a Code of Conduct hearing which, under the circumstances, was not an unexpected outcome. We will now work to confirm a date for the hearing as soon as possible.
"After the date for the hearing is confirmed Rugby Australia and the NSW Rugby Union will make no further comment on the matter until the Code of Conduct process has concluded."
The events of the past week have had a spectrum of reactions, ranging from fervent support of Folau and his right to express his faith to condemnation of his post and support for strong leadership from Rugby Australia.
Former Wallaby Drew Mitchell posted a quote from an article Folau penned in Players' Voice last year after a similar incident led to him being warned over his social media use.
Folau posted responded to an Instagram comment in April last year and ultimately used the player-focused media outlet to explain his motivations and said he had told Castle he was prepared to walk away from rugby if his faith got in the way.
2018 vs 2019— Drew Mitchell (@drew_mitchell) April 17, 2019
When words & actions aren’t aligned....
The fact @RugbyAU intend to terminate @IzzyFolau contract would suggest it’s become untenable.
I would hate to think Izzy is a liar because we know what happens to them.. pic.twitter.com/47YS7rxRiS
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
Now that Folau has requested a hearing, Rugby Australia and RUPA must agree on a three-person panel to hear the case and a date for the hearing.
The panel will be made up of a representative appointed by Rugby Australia , one appointed by RUPA and a third person, to be appointed by both parties.
It is unlikely the hearing will take place before ANZAC Day, with the upcoming Easter long weekend and then the ANZAC Day holiday in the next eight days.
Under the code of conduct, once the three panellists are appointed, the hearing will start within the next five business days, if practical.
Rugby Australia's integrity unit recommended contract termination in Monday's breach notice and the result of the hearing could be anything from Folau being cleared to stay employed to a fine, suspension or termination.
It is not the first time Rugby Australia has gone to a Code of Conduct hearing in an attempt to axe a player - in 2014, the then ARU lost its bid to sack Kurtley Beale for bringing the game into disrepute.
The Waratahs utility was ultimately fined $45,000 for an offensive text message sent to then Wallabies manager Di Patston.
Should the panel find in Folau's favour, he would be eligible for Wallabies and Waratahs selection but it appears unlikely that he would actually play Super Rugby or Tests again, with Michael Cheika saying he couldn't select him after this latest post because of the impact it would have on the team.
The decision, either way, could be appealed in the Supreme Court.
Folau remains stood down by NSW Rugby while the process unfolds.
TIMELINE: HOW THE CONTROVERSY UNFOLDED
It has been a week since Folau published the controversial post that triggered a remarkable series of events. Here is how the week has unfolded.
Wednesday April 10
Folau posted a picture on Instagram, that read: "Warning: Drunks, Homosexuals, Adulterers, Liars, Fornicators, Thieves, Atheists, Idolaters. Hell Awaits You. Repent! Only Jesus Saves", accompanied by a lengthy caption.
Rugby Australia issued a statement on Wednesday evening, confirming its Integrity Unit would be looking into the matter.
Wallabies great Tim Horan weighed into the debate, saying Folau had to be conscious of his position as a role model when using social media.
Thursday April 11
Rugby Australia dropped the bombshell that it intended to terminate Israel Folau's four-year, multi-million dollar contract over the latest post.
In a statement on Thursday evening, Castle said neither Rugby AU nor NSW Rugby had been able to directly contact Folau on the matter but were able to speak with his manager, Isaac Moses.
"As a code we have made it clear to Israel formally and repeatedly that any social media posts or commentary that is in any way disrespectful to people because of their sexuality will result in disciplinary action," the statement read.
"In the absence of compelling mitigating factors, it is our intention to terminate his contract.”
Friday April 12
Folau and his wife, Maria, met with RUPA CEO Prataal Raj to discuss the situation.
The fullback had a meeting with Castle and NSW Rugby CEO Andrew Hore about the incident and was unapologetic for the post.
Rugby Australia confirmed on Friday evening that their position on Folau's future was unchanged by that meeting
NSW Rugby stood Folau down"until further notice."
Monday April 15
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson and Waratahs and Wallabies captain Michael Hooper.
Cheika said he "wouldn't be able to" select Folau after his latest post and Hooper admitted it would not be easy to play with him again.
Rugby Australia issued Folau with a Code of Conduct breach notice and Castle confirms there was no contract clause surrounding social media in Folau's deal.
Wednesday April 17
Israel Folau requested a Code of Conduct hearing in response to the breach notice in a bid to keep his career alive.