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Rugby Australia sets date for Israel Folau hearing

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Israel Folau's future in Australian rugby may be decided within two weeks after his code of conduct hearing was set for Saturday, May 4.

The following day has been reserved in case the hearing runs into a second day.

The Wallabies superstar has been charged with a high-level code of conduct breach following his latest controversial social media posts, and will front a three-person panel at Rugby Australia HQ in Sydney.

Respected Sydney barrister John West QC will chair the tribunal, with Rugby Australia's Kate Eastman SC and Rugby Union Players' Association elected representative John Boultbee AM the other panellists.

Former Solicitor-General of Australia Justin Gleeson QC will be Rugby Australia's counsel at the hearing.

Unless successful at the hearing, Folau faces the sack after being issued with a "high-level" breach notice last Monday over the posts he made on Twitter and Instagram on April 10.

There's no guarantee the outcome of the hearing will be the final chapter of the saga, as the loser could could consider court action.

Folau was stood down by the NSW Rugby Union on April 12.

Israel Folau's code of conduct hearing has been set down for May 4. Pic: Getty
Israel Folau's code of conduct hearing has been set down for May 4. Pic: Getty

In their first match without him, the Waratahs scored a crucial Super Rugby win over Australian conference leader Melbourne last Saturday.

The RA Integrity Unit deemed Folau had committed a high-level breach of the Professional Players' Code of Conduct, warranting termination of his employment contract.

Folau was given 48 hours to accept that sanction or have the matter referred to a code of conduct hearing, opting for the latter.

The religiously motivated Folau attracted a fresh storm of controversy when he posted on Instagram: "Warning. Drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolaters. Hell awaits you. Repent! Only Jesus saves."

Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle said Folau was warned formally and repeatedly last year about expectations of him as a Wallabies and Waratahs player in regards to his social media use, following similar controversial posts.

She has stressed the action taken against Folau is about the issue of responsibilities an employee owes to their employer, rather than punishment for his religious beliefs.

‘Quite scary’

The Israel Folau saga has taken a twist, with England star Billy Vunipola confronted by an angry fan for his support of the Wallabies player.

Billy Vunipola copped boos and jeers after a week of controversy in a man-of-the-match performance that helped Saracens reach their third European rugby Champions Cup final in four years.

The No.8 was given formal warnings by his club and England’s Rugby Football Union during the week after he liked Folau’s social media post about hell awaiting homosexuals, drunks, fornicators and liars.

Vunipola put that aside to excel for Saracens in a 32-16 semi-final win over Munster in Coventry on Saturday, however things turned nasty when a fan ran onto the field after the game and verbally abused him.

The fan in a Munster jersey invaded the pitch and pointed at Vunipola, before being led away by security.

“It was quite scary but I guess people say I put my foot in it so I have to deal with it,” he said.

“It’s not something that I’m afraid of, obviously it’s something that I probably have to expect will keep happening. It was quite a motivating factor that people were booing me.

“I wanted to back up my words and show my team-mates that I did not mean to distract them.”

with AAP

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