Israel Folau’s anti-gay sentiments won’t be a distraction during the Test series against Ireland, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika insisted Wednesday as he demanded a high work-rate from his side.
Devout Christian Folau, one of Australia’s top players, has been embroiled in a storm since posting on social media last month that gay people were destined for hell, sending rugby chiefs into damage control.
But Cheika said it would not be issue when the Wallabies take on the Six Nations champions in three Tests next month, suggesting Folau could be ready to refrain from posting divisive views.
“It’s not going to be an issue, because it’s not going to be ongoing. You can interpret it how you like,” Cheika told reporters in Sydney.
“He’s definitely going to post stuff (on social media), isn’t that what that is for? But the right stuff, stuff he believes in.”
A defiant Folau, 29, has previously said he will not be backing away from his staunch religious beliefs regarding homosexuality and same-sex marriage despite a backlash from current and former players.
Australia host the Irish on three consecutive Saturdays from June 9 in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, and Cheika admitted he was wary of them, with hard work needed to counter the threat.
“We need to play our football, which is an attacking style we like to play lots of phases, we like to play with a little bit of width as well,” he said.
“We want to get something from every attack but when you do a lot of attack like we do, you won’t always get reward so you’ve just got to stay at it and then of course you’ve got to be very strong defensively.
“But the number one thing would be our work ethic. All the other stuff’s inconsequential.
“Work ethic principles are the things we need to build the strongest between now and the World Cup to go to where we want to go and the consistency in delivering that.”
Cheika is due to name his squad for the series on Wednesday next week.
One player missing will be lock Rory Arnold, who was banned Sunday for three weeks, ruling him out of contention for the first Test.
Arnold’s suspension came after he was red-carded at the weekend while playing for ACT Brumbies against Golden Lions in a Super Rugby match in Johannesburg.