Israel Folau to challenge Rugby Australia ban

Folau has been a standout player for the Wallabies in recent years

Folau has been a standout player for the Wallabies in recent years

England rugby union player Billy Vunipola came out in defence of him last week on Instagram.

In an interview with British radio station talkSPORT, the Welshman was highly critical of Folau reasserting his homophobic beliefs in social media posts last week.

"I told Raelene, if she felt the situation had become untenable - that I was hurting Rugby Australia, its sponsors and the Australian rugby community to such a degree that things couldn't be worked through, I would walk away from my contract, immediately", Folau wrote past year.

Former Wallabies star Drew Mitchell has used Israel Folau's own words against him to hit out at the decision to challenge Rugby Australia in a code of conduct hearing.

The hearing, before representatives of Rugby Australia, the professional players association and an independent figure, is likely to be delayed by a series of public holidays over the next two weeks, extending the headache for the sport's leaders in Australia.

"Israel has responded formally today to request a code-of-conduct hearing, which - under the circumstances - was not an unexpected outcome", said Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle.

Folau will be able to state his case in a bid to keep his job playing for Australia.

Billy Vunipola has played over 50 times for England

National team sponsor Qantas also condemned the player's social media stance.

Folau may have grounds to fight the ruling, with RA's failure to include a social media clause in his new contract set to be a key element in his hearing.

"After the date for the hearing is confirmed Rugby Australia and the NSW Rubgy Union will make no further comment on the matter until the Code of Conduct process has concluded".

That would force Rugby Australia to decide whether to tear up his lucrative contract, just five months out from the World Cup.

Folau has stood by his view in posts that remain visible and would rather accept the end of his career than issue a retraction.

On Sunday Folau, Super Rugby's record try-scorer, told the Sydney Morning Herald he was ready for life without rugby, saying, "I live for God now".

Since then the referee has become one of the most decorated in his craft and was awarded with the honour of officiating the 2015 grand final, in which Folau played for the Wallabies. But I'd also like him to understand and respect that this is who I am, and I'm glad rugby has allowed me to be who I am. "Reading what he said after it, there's no apology, I just can't see a way back for him and I think that's quite sad to be honest with you".

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