Christian rugby star Israel Folau could be banned from New Zealand for saying gay people are going to 'hell'

Australian rugby star and devout Christian Israel Folau could be banned from entering New Zealand amid the fallout following his comments that gay people are going to hell.

Rugby Australia's main sponsor, Qantas, may consider pulling their support if further homophobic comments are made, they said. Its chief executive Alan Joyce has won an award for his campaigning in favour of gay marriage.

Israel Folau is a committed Christian and one of world rugby's superstars.Reuters

Folau, 29, is a committed Christian and one of rugby's superstars, winning 62 caps for Australia as well as playing for the New South Wales Waratahs. He shared an Instagram post about God's plan for people's lives and made when asked what God's plan was for gay people he said: 'HELL... Unless they repent of their sins and turn to God.'

The post has subsequently been deleted but screen grabs have been shared widely on social media.

A spokesman for Rugby Australia's sponsor Qantas said Folau's comments were 'very disappointing'.

'As a sponsor of Rugby Australia, we're supportive of their approach towards tolerance and inclusion, which aligns with our own,' the airline said.

But New Zealand's former immigration minister Tuariki Delamere suggested the country's immigration laws mean that anyone who is, or is likely to be, a threat or risk to public order, or the public interest is not eligible to enter.

'There can be no doubt that he (Folau) is a threat to the public interest and a threat to the public order,' Delamere said according to local media. However he admitted barring Folau could be complicated given that Australian passport holders are New Zealand residents the moment they enter the country.

Amid the outcry Michael Hooper, Folau's Australian captain and teammate for the NSW Waratahs, defended Folau's right to free speech.

'We're a diverse group. We come from many different lands and we're different individuals but we share the same common goal of wanting to be the best and represent our friends and family and fans as a team,' he said.

'We're all different people and have different religious beliefs and everyone is entitled to them.'

Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle has said she will meet with Folau to discuss his views as she distanced herself from the comments.

'Israel's comment reflects his personal religious beliefs, however it does not represent the view of Rugby Australia or NSW Rugby,' she said in a statement.

'We are aligned in our view that rugby is a game for all, regardless of sexuality, race, religion or gender, which is clearly articulated in rugby's inclusion policy.

'We understand that Israel's comment has upset a number of people and we will discuss the matter with him as soon as possible.'