Israel Folau’s opposition to same sex marriage must be respected and his opinion on the matter will not create disharmony in the Wallaby camp.
That was the word from Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika ahead of his team’s clash with Argentina in Canberra on Saturday.
Shortly after the Australian Rugby Union made it known that they support Australia’s “yes” campaign, Folau tweeted: “I love and respect all people for who they are and their opinions, but personally I will not support gay marriage.”
Afterwards, Wallabies flanker David Pocock – who is currently on a sabbatical – tweeted that he would “vote yes for justice and love”.
On Thursday, Cheika was asked about Folau’s stance on the matter and said he believes “respect is king” regardless of whether people agreed or disagreed with his opinion.
“There’s a lot of people that have different opinions about lots of things and I think our team is a reflection of Australia,” said Cheika.
“One of the great things about Australia is that you can say what you feel and you can have respect given to you and pay respect to others.
“You’d have to think he would know that that [backlash] would happen and he’d be ready for that. It’s an opinion.
“It’s his opinion and that’s the way that we should operate in this environment… respect people’s opinion.
“This is a national issue for the reason that they made it. Respect is king.”
Cheika is convinced Folau’s views will not cause any problems in Australia’s squad.
“I don’t see how it could make a division within the team,” he said. “How would that happen?
“It wouldn’t be news if it wasn’t made news and internally we’ve got 100 per cent respect for everyone’s opinions on all matters.”