Rugby Australia's unprecedented move for gay players

Rugby Australia says it hopes to grow the number of gay rugby players in Australia and educate people about homophobia through a new alliance with a number of gay-inclusive clubs.

Under the alliance, a new committee will be formed by RA with four Australian rugby clubs - Sydney Convicts, Melbourne Chargers, Brisbane Hustlers and Perth Rams - as well as UK-based International Gay Rugby.

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"We want rugby to be a game that all Australians can enjoy regardless of their age, race, background, religion, gender or sexual orientation," said RA chief executive, Raelene Castle.

"This formal alliance between Rugby Australia and the clubs is a key step forward in fostering and maintaining a Rugby environment that is safe, welcoming and enjoyable for all members of the LGBTIQA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer/questioning, asexual) community."

Rugby Australia will make an unprecedented move to include the LGBTI community in the sport. under CEO Raelene Castle. (Photo by Brook Mitchell/Getty Images)

The move to strengthen ties with the gay community comes in a year when the code's relationship with the group came under the spotlight.

Back in May rugby's star player in Australia, Israel Folau, had his contract terminated after he posted a picture to social media in April saying that homosexuals and other "sinners" would go to hell.

RA is currently embroiled in a multi-million dollar dispute with the deeply religious Folau, who is appealing its decision.

The case will go to court in February should further mediation fail in December.

Fallout fallout continues

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has said he was personally threatened by fans after vowing not to select Israel Folau over his "disrespectful" anti-gay comments.

The deeply Christian player was sacked by Rugby Australia in May for posting on Instagram that "hell awaits" gay people and others he considers sinners.

His firing proved hugely divisive and the star fullback, who played 73 times for the Wallabies, is pursuing court action for unfair dismissal and restraint of trade with a hearing set for next February.

"People were saying all sorts of stuff," Cheika told the Sydney Morning Herald from the Wallabies' training base in Japan ahead of the World Cup, in an interview published Saturday.

"Just threats I was getting; people on the street, some to my face, a couple at some games. It was just crazy stuff."