World XV coach Steve Hansen’s bold claim on controversial Israel Folau plan after Pride Flag reveal
World XV coach Steve Hansen has picked Israel Folau for the clash against Eddie Jones’s Barbarians at Twickenham on Sunday.
Hansen pressed ahead with the controversial selection of Folau on the right wing despite the Rugby Football Union deciding to raise the pride flag at Twickenham in response.
Folau was sacked by Rugby Australia in 2019 because of a series of anti-gay posts on social media and was involved in a bitter court battle with his then employers.
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Hansen claimed the drama had been a positive for the sport’s support of the LGBTQI+ community.
“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,” said Hansen.
“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?”
The former Wallabies star has since been plying his trade in Japan.
Folau took advantage of changed eligibility rules to play for the Tongan national team last year, with September’s Rugby World Cup on the horizon.
He will be joined in the World XV team by Semi Radradra, the former Parramatta Eels NRL player who now plays for English rugby club the Bristol Bears.
The Barbarians will be led by Wales great Alun Wyn Jones.
Jones has announced he is retiring from the international game having amassed 170 caps, including 12 for the British and Irish Lions, in a decision that means he will miss the World Cup.
The 37-year-old Ospreys lock will captain a side that includes Australia stars Quade Cooper and Samu Kerevi.
BARBARIANS: G Anscombe, A Radwan, S Tamanivalu, S Kerevi, T Li; Q Cooper, J Maunder; A Waller, N Dolly, E Pieretto, AW Jones (capt), S Lewies, A Wainwright, K Yamamoto, S Luatua. Replacements: H Thacker, T West, C Sadie, R Simmons, S Vailanu, F Hougaard, A Cruden, S Johnson.
WORLD XV: C Piutau; I Folau, S Radradra, N Laumape, Sbu Nkosi; Adam Hastings, Nick Phipps; W Jones, F Brown, O Kebble, A Ratuniyarawa, H Hockings, S Negri, M Lamaro (capt), V Mata. Replacements: E Dee, A Dell, M Street, N Cannone, J Murphy, B Hall, R Patchell, K Rasaku.