Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika has revealed receiving personal threats from fans after he ruled out selecting controversial former star Israel Folau in the wake of his anti-gay social media stance.
Folau had has multi-million dollar contract terminated by Rugby Australia earlier this year after posting multiple graphics to Instagram which warned homosexuals among other “sinners” where going to hell.
Cheika had last year helped soothe the feud between Folau and Rugby Australia but when the former fullback continued his ways online, Cheika made clear he couldn’t select him again – and it didn’t go down well with some Wallabies fans.
“People were saying all sorts of stuff,” Cheika said. “Just threats I was getting; people on the street, some to my face, a couple at some games. It was just crazy stuff.”
Making clear he was not disappointed in Folau’s actions specifically, Cheika said it was a shame Australia had lost such a player in a World Cup year.
“If that’s what he believes, and that’s where his passion is, I will never tell someone to hide it, Cheika said. “I might not agree with everyone, but I’d never want someone to not say what they feel. I’m no person to judge.
“The other disappointing part is that we lost one of our best players; a guy who I helped come back. I wouldn’t say I’m responsible for what’s happened. It’s just life. But I had to do what was needed for the team.”
Also noting that rumours of the Folau saga dividing the current Wallabies team were far from the truth, Cheika said any concerns were quickly put to rest in team meetings.
“There was an inference of some type of split – that’s so untrue,” he said. “We had to make some hard decisions.
“But [claims of a split] was the opposite of the truth. And that’s the fundamental thing about great teams: they trust each other, they’re united when it’s really tough.
“And I think it’s shown to be a total untruth with the way this team has played this season. It’s been disproved by the spirit and team camaraderie that’s been shown.”
Folau is currently suing Rugby Australia for as much as $A10 million for unlawful dismissal and restraint of trade.
The matter is set down for February in the Federal Circuit Court.
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