Billy Vunipola reprimanded over controversial Australian

Updated: 25/03/2023


In brief

  • Israel Folau set to be sacked by Australian Rugby Football Union
  • RFU and Saracens could take action against Billy Vunipola

Billy Vunipola has been rebuked by his club Saracens and the Rugby Football Union after giving his support to Australian rugby player Israel Folau over his controversial views on homosexuality.

Folau, a devout Christian, has been threatened with the sack by the Australian Rugby Union – and hence missing out on this year’s World Cup – after posting a picture on social media on Wednesday that included the words: “Warning. Drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolators. Hell awaits you. Repent! Only Jesus saves.”

Vunipola, the No 8, who has played 41 Tests for England and is one of the world’s finest forwards, ‘liked’ the Folau post amid criticism of it by fellow players, and wrote an explanation on his own Instagram account on Friday: “So this morning I got 3 phone calls from people telling me to ‘unlike’ the @izzyfolau post.

“This is my position on it. I don’t HATE anyone neither do I think I’m perfect.

“There just comes a point when you insult what I grew up believing in that you just say enough is enough, what he’s saying isn’t that he doesn’t like or love those people.

“He’s saying how we live our lives needs to be closer to how God intended them to be. Man was made for woman to pro create that was the goal no?

“I’m not perfect I’m at least everything on that list at least at one point in my life. It hurts to know that. But that’s why I believe there’s a God.

“To guide and protect us and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

‘Rugby is an inclusive sport’

Vunipola has faced an immediate backlash for his comments (Getty Images)
Vunipola has faced an immediate backlash for his comments (Getty Images)

A spokeswoman for the Rugby Football Union, who pay Vunipola around £25,000 a match to play for England, said: “Rugby is an inclusive sport and we do not support these views. We will be meeting with Billy to discuss his social media posts.”

i understands the meeting will be next week and the RFU was referring to the views expressed by both Vunipola and Folau.

The 26-year-old Vunipola is employed by his club, who released a stern statement: “Saracens proudly embraces diversity and warmly welcomes everyone to the Club regardless of race, gender, religion and sexual orientation.

“Our sport is open to all and we strive for it to be free from all forms of discrimination. We recognise that people have different belief systems and we expect everyone to be treated equally with respect and humility.

“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.”

In a possible precedent, Folau, 30, was not sanctioned by the Australian Rugby Union when he first used social media to instruct homosexuals to “repent” in April 2018.

He said at the time: “It has been suggested that I am homophobic and bigoted and that I have a problem with gay people. This could not be further from the truth. I believe in inclusion. In my heart, I know I do not have any phobia towards anyone.”

Vunipola is due to be on the bench for Saracens in their Premiership match at Bristol on Saturday as they chase a league and European double, with a Champions Cup quarter-final against Munster to follow next Saturday.

The Rugby Players’ Association, of which Vunipola is a member, said in a statement: “The RPA represents over 1,200 current and former professional rugby players from a broad range of backgrounds and with a diverse set of beliefs.

“While we acknowledge an individual’s right to their own beliefs, the RPA do not support the views expressed in Billy Vunipola’s recent social media post.

“We are firmly against any form of discrimination and believe rugby should be an inclusive sport where everybody is welcome, regardless of their race, gender, religion or sexual orientation. We will be making no further comment on this matter.”

This post first appeared here

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