Former teammates' stunning 'gag' claims in Israel Folau saga

Riley Morgan
Sports Reporter

Former Wallabies teammates of Israel Folau have claimed the fullback’s sacking was divisive in the camp and alleged Rugby Australia told them not to comment on the matter.

Folau's infamous Instagram post in which he warned hell awaits homosexuals resulted in his sacking last May.

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But the two parties agreed an out-of-court settlement in December after the former Wallaby sued Rugby Australia for religious discrimination.

Since then Folau has signed and played for the Catalan Dragons, 10 years after he last played in the NRL with Brisbane Broncos.

Israel Folau celebrates with Sekope Kepu after he scored a try. (Photo by Andrew Aylett/Corbis via Getty Images)

But two affidavits seen by The Daily Telegraph have revealed Samu Kerevi and Sekope Kepu’s disappointment in the way Christian players were treated during the saga.

"It seemed to me that Israel was being sacked for simply expressing his faith. I found that very difficult to square up with the way others had been treated," Kerevi wrote.

"It seemed to me that most types of conduct could easily be forgiven by management, but that conduct involving religion was different. All this made it difficult for me to counsel the more junior players in the locker room. At the time I wanted to support Israel publicly. I couldn't because the players (including me) were told by management not to comment on the issue."

Samu Kerevi (L) shares a light moment with teammate Israel Folau (R). (WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)

Kepu disappointed with Folau situation

He said as a Christian and supporter of Folau he felt marginalised by both Rugby Australia and the Waratahs and was pulled from a Super Rugby media opportunity due to fears he might speak in Folau's favour.

Kepu said he warned RA chief executive Raelene Castle the situation would cause division in the Wallabies camp ahead of the World Cup.

Now playing in the UK, Kepu said he didn't attend the Wallabies' training camp in mid-2019, ahead of the World Cup in Japan due to such concerns.

"The Wallabies' next camp after Israel's posts in April 2019 was in around July 2019, before our Rugby Championship matches that year.

"I did not attend the camp. This was because I was so upset about the way in which management had handled Israel's situation that I didn't think it would be a good thing for me to attend," Kepu wrote.

He said he thought during World Cup games that the Wallabies had missed Folau's on-field skills.

"There is no doubt to me that the Wallabies would have gone further in the 2019 Rugby World Cup if Israel had been on the team".

The Wallabies crashed out at the quarter-final stage.

Castle denies players were ‘gagged’

RA chief executive Raelene Castle denied on Wednesday any Wallabies players were gagged from speaking out in support of Folau.

"A lot of work was done by Rugby Australia and the Super Rugby teams to provide open communication on the issue to all players throughout the matter, and when requested, counsel and advice was provided to individuals," Castle said.

"At all times the priority for Rugby Australia and the Super Rugby teams was to support the players.

"We wrote to all players to remind them of their obligations under the code of conduct and our social media policy, but no player was prevented from speaking about the issue, or asked to support Rugby Australia's position regarding Israel in the media."

With AAP