Steve Hansen responds to decision to fly pride flag at Twickenham after Israel Folau selection

Adam Kyriacou
Israel Folau split Steve Hansen

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) will fly the pride flag at Twickenham on Sunday in response to Israel Folau being picked in the World XV by Steve Hansen.

Former All Blacks head coach Hansen accepts the selection of Folau is controversial and applauds the RFU’s decision to raise the flag for this week’s match.

Folau will play against Eddie Jones’ Barbarians four years after Rugby Australia sacked him for publishing a series of anti-gay posts on social media.

Rainbow flag will be flying

He has since switched national allegiance to Tonga and is set to play at the Rugby World Cup later this year, this after a stint in rugby league with Catalans.

On the RFU’s decision to show support for the LGBTQ+ community by flying the rainbow flag, Hansen welcomes the move but insists Folau deserves to play.

“I think it’s great. It’s a consequence of Folau’s selection, and I think it’s a good thing. It’s an opportunity to show support to that flag. I don’t have a problem with it,” he said.

“There wouldn’t be one there if Israel wasn’t playing so whenever we can bring attention to people who are suffering in a positive way, that’s good.

“They deserve to be loved and cared for as much as anybody else. If we all did that, it’d be a happy place, wouldn’t it.

“Israel Folau is a very good rugby player. He’s world-class. And I know by picking him that there will be some people hurt. And I get that.

“However, I want those people to understand that Israel’s belief and views are not ours. And we don’t agree with them.

“But he’s a rugby player first and foremost, and he’s been sanctioned. Those sanctions have finished, he’s playing rugby, he’s probably going to go to the World Cup so my job is to pick the best team I can pick, and that’s what I’ve done.”

Hansen, a Rugby World Cup winner with the All Blacks as head coach in 2015, has ordered his World XV outfit to entertain against the Baa-baas on Sunday.

Feels it’s counter-productive

However, the Kiwi made a point of criticising the recent drive to stamp out dangerous play in the game that he feels has brought a “dourness” to the sport.

“We see a lot of red cards, and while I understand that, I just don’t understand why we ruin the game with them,” Hansen said.

“Fans want to see a contest – one of the biggest principles of the game is a fair contest – and we’re giving people red cards for unintentional accidents and calling it foul play.

“If you keep giving red cards out, people will think the game’s dirty so it’s imploding upon itself.

“It’s easy for me to sit here and have all the answers, but somehow we’ve got to bring a more common-sense approach to finding a solution rather than just a penalty.

“I wonder if we do this because we want to be able to say, ‘Well, at least we’ve done that’ if we then go to a court hearing?

“That’s pretty cynical of me to think like that, but I can’t help it because sending players off is not fixing the problem.

“Is the data saying we are getting less head knocks by doing what we are doing at the moment? I don’t think so.”

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