England rugby player stands by defence of Israel Folau's 'hell awaits' post

Billy VunipolaReuters

Billy Vunipola has said he will not "take a step back" from his position on the Israel Folau controversy.

The Saracens No 8 is refusing to retract comments he made earlier this year defending Folau and the social media post that led to his sacking by Rugby Australia. 

Vunipola, who is preparing to represent England in the Rugby World Cup, received an official warning from the Rugby Football Union after posting comments defending Folau during the furore over his Instagram post saying that "hell awaits" gay people, among others.

At the time, Vunipola waded into the controversy with an Instagram post of his own saying "man was made for woman to pro create that was the goal no?" 

View this post on Instagram

So this morning I got 3 phone calls from people telling me to ‘unlike’ the @izzyfolau post. This is my position on it. I don’t HATE anyone neither do I think I’m perfect. There just comes a point when you insult what I grew up believing in that you just say enough is enough, what he’s saying isn’t that he doesn’t like or love those people. He’s saying how we live our lives needs to be closer to how God intended them to be. Man was made for woman to pro create that was the goal no? I’m not perfect I’m at least everything on that list at least at one point in my life. It hurts to know that. But that’s why I believe there’s a God. To guide and protect us and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

A post shared by Billy Vunipola (@vunipola_billy) on

The post remains on his social media but speaking to reporters this week, he suggested he was done talking about it, although he also refused to apologise, saying he would neither "expand on" nor "take a step back" from his comments. 

"We have talked about it at length, not just me, but me and the RFU and the people at Saracens," Vunipola said.

"We came to a conclusion that this issue, that people say I brought on myself, is better off left alone.

"I have made my position clear and what I don't want to do is become a distraction to the players around me.

"I guess, for example, if I was a boxer and it was just me that I was affecting, I would sit here and answer your question.

"But it doesn't just affect me. It is affects the coaching staff, the players, because they will be asked for their opinions on it.

"It is firmly what I put out there and it is firmly on me, but at the same time I don't want to put them under the cosh by saying this, this and this because that is unfair to them."

He added: "I want it to be known that you guys know where I stand. I'm not going to expand on it or take a step back. That is not me being stubborn, but me not wanting the players to be affected by it as it is not fair on them."

Folau has commenced a legal challenge against Rugby Australia after it terminated his $4m contract.  He is claiming that his dismissal was "unlawful" on grounds of his religious beliefs and is also seeking to recoup lost income. 

He has expressed his intention to take his case all the way to the High Court if necessary.