Gareth Thomas 'upset' by Israel Folau signing

29 January 2020 - 15:45 By AFP
Israel Folau has upset a lot of people with his anti-gay remarks.
Israel Folau has upset a lot of people with his anti-gay remarks.
Image: REUTERS/David Gray/File Photo

Former Wales rugby international Gareth Thomas says he is "really upset" by French rugby league club Catalans Dragons' decision to sign ex-Wallabies star Israel Folau, who was sacked by Rugby Australia for highly publicised homophobic views.

Folau, 30, an outspoken Christian and former poster boy of Australian rugby union, was dismissed last May after a social media post warning "hell awaits" gay people.

Catalans announced the signing of the dual-code international on Tuesday.

Thomas, also a dual-code international, but who made his name in rugby union, is gay and said he would refuse to watch any matches involving the Australian.

"So Folau has joined the @SuperLeague. Really upset by this as the game, players, and fans were so good to me," tweeted Thomas, who had an 18-month stint in rugby league after the end of his union career.

"All I hope is that as much as Folau wanted his right to speak, then players and fans alike are (allowed) their right to respond. I will never watch him."

Super League executive chairman Robert Elstone condemned the move and Wigan declared their home game against the Catalans in March a "Pride Day" in response.

Folau could make his first appearance for the Dragons in round two of the Super League at English side Wakefield Trinity on February 9.

He played rugby league for Melbourne and Brisbane before switching codes to rugby union but Folau was told he would not be allowed to return to the NRL, Australia's major rugby league club competition, following his exile by the Wallabies.

- 'Abhorrent views' -

However, the England-based Rugby Football League said it was powerless to prevent Folau's registration, saying the moral responsibility for deciding whether to sign a player sits with individual clubs.

Wakefield Trinity chief executive Michael Carter said he was not aware of any of the other Super League clubs being consulted on the matter and would have strongly argued against the move.

"I don't believe he should have been allowed in," he told Britain's Press Association.

"Are we seen now as a safety net for anybody who has been kicked out of other competitions?

"I don't think it is the sort of advert we should be putting out for our sport. The views he holds are abhorrent and to hide behind religious beliefs is wrong."

Wigan chairman Ian Lenagan admitted his club considered the possibility of signing Folau.

"It did cross our mind but we made no approaches," he told BBC Radio. "We had filled our salary cap -- that's the reality."

Wigan's players will wear rainbow socks and laces for the game against the Dragons in an act Lenagan said was a positive move.

"We've shown we're proud of our diversity and we're taking positive action to show we want to be proud of our Pride Day," said Lenagan.


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