After the fall out between Israel Folau and Rugby Australia it seems as though Folau will be seeking new employment, once all the legal requirements have been complied with in finalising the termination of his international playing contract. Raelene Castle has made it clear that barring any substantive and compelling factors to the contrary, Folau will not be part of the Wallabies plans going forward through 2019 and into the World Cup.
Confirmation has been forthcoming that the Player met with representatives of Australian Rugby to discuss the matter and word from the player himself is that he will oppose the termination. Whilst this may lead to a drawn out legal battle it is not likely that any legitimate defense will be raised by the player in light of the allegations against him. In all likelihood the player will be suspended pending the outcome of such a matter and as such would miss out on a large portion of the remainder of Super Rugby.
At time of writing, the post was still visible on the player’s social media page and such insistence on his part to offend is only compounding the player’s problems presently. Not only has Folau violated his contractual obligations with Australian Rugby and the Waratahs, he has also violated World Rugby’s Code of Conduct and could face sanction from the governing body as well. His insistence on keeping the post up is also indicative of his lack of remorse or regard for community.
Many players have come out against the statement made by Folau, with former Wallaby great Drew Mitchell seeing no other option but to fire the player. Australian Rugby did themselves no favors in dealing with Folau so leniently the first time he professed such views and will surely look to make an example of the player now. Whilst freedom of speech is a necessary right, it cannot outweigh the harm caused by the derogatory and defamatory remarks made by the player.
Head coach Michael Cheika will now be looking to fill the void at the back with just a few months to go before the World Cup in Japan you can be sure he wasn’t expecting to have to find a new starter in the last line, especially with Folau becoming Super Rugby’s top try scorer only a week ago.
The most likely player to fill the post is Dane Haylett-Petty who is having a strong season with the Melbourne Rebels. Dane currently has 29 caps for Australia and could now find himself being their go to man at the back, his strong defensive capabilities will be valuable to the wallabies however he is not as reliable under the high ball as Folau and should focus hard on becoming more all rounded in attack if he looks to secure the jersey.
The other player likely to be considered is Kurtley Beale. Whilst he is no stranger to controversy himself, he is having a strong season with the Waratahs at the moment and his versatility certainly counts in his favor. Having already obtained 82 caps for Australia he would have been on the plane to Japan in any event, now it just may be in a much more pivotal role. Equally adept at playing fly Half, Center, Wing or Full Back there is no doubting what he brings to the attacking capabilities of any team.
Whilst Beale has the qualities to fulfill the role well, his versatility may count against him as he is also a very viable bench option, it is for this reason only that Haylett-Petty is likely to secure the starting birth.
In the interim we will need to keep an eye on the developments in this matter but it is likely going to be a drawn out process with a couple of fireworks in the process. The rugby community around the world should now stand strong and show that these comments do not reflect the views of our sport and that our sports is for people of all backgrounds, shapes, colours and sizes.
“Rugby provides a unifying spirit that leads to life-long friendships, camaraderie, teamwork and loyalty which transcends cultural, geographic, political and religious differences.” – World Rugby Vision mission statement.
Written by: Nicholas Halsey
Image credit: Telegraph