Veteran halfback Nick Phipps has praised rugby bosses for acting quickly over the Israel Folau furore, admitting its been a distraction for the NSW Waratahs at a crucial time.
Wallabies and Waratahs fullback Folau has been stood down and facing the sack after copping a breach notice from Rugby Australia over his controversial social media posts last week, having been warned after similar posts a year ago.
In the meantime, his Waratahs teammates are preparing for a match against the Australian conference-leading Melbourne Rebels on Saturday that could define their Super Rugby season.
“It’s obviously a distraction, it’s been going on for nearly two weeks now,” Wallabies halfback Phipps said at Waratahs training on Tuesday.
“The fact that there was such a such a huge press conference about it yesterday … it was not too from our vision every day.”
Phipps praised both Rugby Australia and NSW Rugby for dealing with the situation quickly.
Folau has been given until 2pm on Wednesday to either seek a code of conduct hearing for his “high level” breach of the players’ code of conduct or have his four-year, $4 million contract terminated.
The religiously-motivated Folau posted on Instagram: “Warning. Drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolators. Hell awaits you. Repent! Only Jesus saves.”
“It’s good that there was a united stand between RA and NSW Rugby,” Phipps said.
“It was good that it was swiftly dealt with and it gives us the opportunity to just move forward as quickly as possible and let the process run its course rather than let it drag on for ages.
“It’s probably given all parties a bit of clarity about what’s going to happen and then we can adjust from there.”
Phipps said while NSW would miss the special talents of Folau they had other players who could slot in at fullback.
“The talent base of Israel is hard to replace but we have got other people who can bring things that he possibly can’t bring in areas.
“So it’s tough but I am fairly confident we have got the depth in our squad to be able to cover him.”
Gifted utility Kurtley Beale has previously been shortlisted for the World Player of the Year award while playing primarily at fullback.
He is likely to switch back to that role for NSW from No.12, leaving the seasoned pair of Karmichael Hunt and Adam Ashley-Cooper to fill the centre positions.
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