Legendary All Blacks coach slams Israel Folau and says controversial ex-Wallaby is the reason why gay pride flag will be flown at one of the year’s biggest rugby matches
- Pride flag expected to be flown at Twickenham on Sunday
- Steve Hansen says display is because of Israel Folau
- Hansen supports the flag being raised during match
Iconic All Blacks coach Steve Hansen believes the pride flag is only being flown above Twickenham for the upcoming Barbarians vs World XV clash because Israel Folau is playing – and says that’s a positive thing.
Folau, 34, had his Wallabies contract terminated in 2019 after he posted on social media that homosexuals will go to hell unless they repent for their sins.
He had previously caused a scandal in 2019 when he said that devastating Australian bushfires were God’s way of punishing the country for legalising abortion and same-sex marriage.
Hansen, who is coaching the World XV team, caused a stir by picking Folau in his side alongside a mouthwatering back-line which already includes his Tonga team-mate Charles Piutau, Fiji’s Semi Radradra, All Black Ngani Laumape and Australia’s Marika Koroibete.
England’s governing Rugby Football Union is planning to show support for the LGBTQ+ community by flying the rainbow flag at Sunday’s match at Twickenham, a move Hansen welcomes.
Steve Hansen says the pride flag is only being flown above Twickenham for the Barbarians vs World XV clash because controversial star Israel Folau is playing
Folau was sacked from the Wallabies team in 2019 after he posted on social media that homosexuals should go to hell unless they repent for their sins
‘They [the RFU] wouldn’t be flying the flag if he [Folau] wasn’t [selected],’ Hansen told BBC Sport.
‘The flag is being brought to the attention of people, and the awareness of why it is there is to support the people that are judged and treated poorly because of who they are.
‘They deserve to be loved and cared for as much as anybody else. If we all did that it’d be a happy place, wouldn’t it?
‘The big lesson there is just treat everyone with kindness and love.’
Hansen has made it very clear he doesn’t agree with the former Wallaby’s views and says he can understand why some people are ‘hurt’ by his inclusion in the side.
‘Israel Folau is a very good rugby player,’ said Hansen. ‘He’s world class. And I know by picking him that there will be some people hurt -and I get that.
‘However, I want those people to understand that Israel’s belief and views are not ours. And we don’t agree with them.
‘But he’s a rugby player first and foremost and he’s been sanctioned.
Hansen has made it very clear he doesn’t agree with the former Wallabies’ views and admits he knew Folau’s selection in the side would be controversial
‘Those sanctions have finished, he’s playing rugby, he’s probably going to go to the World Cup so my job is to pick the best team I can pick and that’s what I’ve done.’
Folau, who won 73 caps for Australia, is expected to play for Tonga at the World Cup in September.
Former England head coach Eddie Jones, now in charge of Australia, will make his first return to Twickenham to coach the Barbarians since being sacked by the RFU in December.
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