Christian Australian rugby star Israel Folau faces backlash after saying gay people are going to hell

Australian rugby star Israel Folau is facing a storm of criticism after he said that gay people were going to hell 'unless they repent of their sins and turn to God'.

Rugby Australia's major sponsor Qantas slammed the comments as 'very disappointing' and the governing body distanced itself from Folau saying his 'personal beliefs do not reflect the views of Rugby Australia'.

Israel Folau is one of the stars of Wallaby rugby with 62 caps and hopes to be a key part of the team's campaign for the 2019 world cup.Reuters

Folau prompted outrage after he responded to a question on social media about God's plan for gay people and said: 'HELL... Unless they repent of their sins and turn to God.'

A devout Christian, Folau is one of Australian rugby's superstars with 62 caps. He shared an Instagram post about God's plan for people's lives and made the comment in response to responses from social media users.

The post was later deleted but a screen grab shared widely on social media.

Qantas, Rugby Australia's main sponsor, has been an outspoken supporter of same-sex marriage and was asked whether they would continue their contract after the comments.

'We've made it clear to Rugby Australia that we find the comments very disappointing,' the company, whose chief executive Alan Joyce won an award for his campaigning in favour of gay marriage, said in a statement.

Rugby Australia said: 'Rugby supports all forms of inclusion, whether its sexuality, race, or gender, which is set out in our Inclusion Policy (2014).'

It is not the first time Folau has sparked controversy about his views on homosexuality. Last year he prompted a disagreement within the national rugby team after saying he opposed same-sex marriage ahead of the country's referendum.