Rugby players' association announces 'faith review'
THE rugby players' union (RUPA) is to set up a committee to review how players can express their faith and beliefs in the wake of the Israel Folau sacking saga.
RUPA said on Monday the decision to tear up Folau's Rugby Australia contract was "a sad outcome for Israel, his family, friends, teammates, opponents and all associated with rugby in Australia and around the world".
It also said Rugby Australia had not yet provided any clear parameters to the players specifying how it expected them to express their faith and beliefs in a way it considered acceptable.
"To address this, RUPA will immediately establish and undertake an Expression of Faith & Beliefs Review alongside its players, incorporating advice from those with and without strong religious beliefs," RUPA said in a statement.
RUPA aims to hold a first meeting of the review committee when the Super Rugby and World Sevens series seasons end and plans to invite representatives of Rugby Australia and Super Rugby, urging them to take part.
Folau was sacked for a high-level code breach for a religiously motivated social media post that said hell awaited homosexuals, among others, after he had previously been warned following a similar post last year.
"RUPA appreciates the difficult position which this incident has placed on Israel's teammates and the broader professional playing group, and we will continue to support each RUPA member," it said.
"RUPA remains proud of its diverse playing group and is committed to empowering and supporting each of its members to have conviction to express their faith and beliefs confidently.
"Clearly, there remains a great deal of work to be done in relation to this subject, but what remains paramount and a non-negotiable is empowering all of RUPA's members to feel confident in understanding their rights and their responsibilities when expressing their faith and beliefs."
It comes after Folau's teammate and Wallabies star Taniela Tupou also posted on social media
"Seriously ... might as well sack me and all the other Pacific Islands rugby players around the world because we have the same Christian beliefs," Tupou posted at the start of the month.
"I will never apologise for my faith and what I believe in, religion had nothing to do with rugby anyways... #TYJ."
He was joined by fellow Wallaby Samu Kerevi in making a bold public stand for their Christian faith.
The backlash sparked fears Rugby Australia could face a Polynesian player revolt in response to their action against Folau.
RUPA's call for an unprecedented review is a first step in an attempt to heal the divide.