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Lawes defends Vunipola freedom-of-speech

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Courtney Lawes the latest to be dragged into 'Folau-gate'

England lock Courtney Lawes appears to be the latest player to have put himself in the middle of the controversy around Israel Folau’s homophobic social posting and potential sacking.

Lawes has come to the defence of Billy Vunipola who himself defended Folau on Instagram. The RFU say they are going to talk to Vunipola, while Channel 4 have sacked him as a contributor on their rugby broadcasts.

Vunipola has liked Folau’s post and states on his own account that “Man was made for woman to procreate that was the goal no?, though he went on to say: “I don’t HATE anyone”.

Now Lawes has stepped into defend Vunipola’s right to freedom of expression.

Lawes wrote: “I don’t have a faith like yourself my brother so I don’t share the same views in this matter but I do believe you should be able to voice your own opinions and beliefs as you see fit.

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“To everyone getting worked up about these post I ask you if you don’t believe in the same things as them then what do these statements matter to you? Can we not disagree with someone without calling them a bigot or a homophobe or every other name under the sun?

“And by the way If you’re going to say you’re accepting of everyone then be accepting of everyone, not just the people you agree with.”

Elsewhere well-known rugby journalist Nick Heath outlined his views – as a gay man – on Folau’s social media posts.

Vunipola could face disciplinary action in response to the anti-gay position outlined in his post, although initially his England bosses are seeking talks.

“Rugby is an inclusive sport and we do not support these views. We will be meeting with Billy to discuss his social media posts,” an RFU spokeswoman said.

Vunipola has been named on the bench for Saracens’ Gallagher Premiership match against Bristol on Saturday and travels to Ashton Gate knowing his club are to launch an internal enquiry into comments that are odds with their stance on diversity.

“We recognise that people have different belief systems and we expect everyone to be treated equally with respect and humility,” reads a statement by the English champions.

“As representatives and role models, Saracens players have a responsibility not only to themselves but to the club and wider society. Billy Vunipola’s recent social media posts are inconsistent with this and we take this matter very seriously. It will be handled internally.”

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Courtney Lawes the latest to be dragged into 'Folau-gate'