Israel Folau and David Pocock insist their very different views on homosexuality will not cause a rift in the Australia squad as they prepare for the test series with Grand Slam champions Ireland which starts in Brisbane on Saturday.
Pocock admits he “strongly disagrees” with team-mate Israel Folau’s anti-gay views but insists it will not affect harmony within the Wallaby camp.
Devout Christian Folau has been embroiled in a storm since posting on social media in April that gay people were destined for hell which saw him hauled before Australian rugby chiefs. However, no action was taken against Folau who has maintained his controversial stance. Pocock and Folau have directly addressed an issue that is likely to remain a headline grabbing problem for the Wallabies for months to come.
Folau said: “Poey came up to me and we started an open conversation about our different beliefs. We’re both grown men and we talked about things. Like I said, it was nothing personal and we respect each other fully. There’s a whole lot of respect in our team and I like that.
“It won’t change anything when we step out onto the field … I’ll be there to cover him and so will he (for me). We’re 100 percent behind each other.”
Pocock has spoken out as he fears anti-gay social media posts by professional athletes will reverse steps taken to make sports more inclusive. “Having Australia’s best rugby player using his platform like that has the potential to really harm young people who are going through some pretty rough stuff trying to come to terms with their sexuality,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“They’re (trying to do) that in a culture that clearly hasn’t become inclusive enough. The fact there are still no footballers in Australia who are openly ‘out’, that says plenty about current sports culture and our society.
“Absolutely (we can play together), I’ve got family who have those views and we’ve had it out over the years,” he said.
“The bottom line is they’re family. You talk about it in a civil way … and when you do that you realise we’ve got far more common ground than we have in difference of belief.
“I just don’t see who wins if we aren’t able to relate to each other as humans and keep talking about things rather than having these really nasty polarising debates to decide who is and isn’t part of our tribe based on their beliefs. “