Australian Wallabies 2019 Rugby World Cup Media Access
Australian Wallabies 2019 Rugby World Cup Media Access

Folau saga fails to split Wallabies

The fear mongers who said Israel Folau's sacking would split the Wallabies along religious and racial lines have been shown to be false prophets.

This is one of the tightest Wallaby teams to represent Australia at the World Cup.

Instead of dividing the squad, the drawn-out Folau saga has helped the players bond like brothers because it's reinforced the first rule of rugby: the team always comes first.

That's the message everyone in the leadership group has been preaching from the moment Folau went rogue and posted the anti-gay comments that led to his multi-million contract being torn up.

And that's the message that the players have taken with them to Japan as they try to Bring Back Bill.

"It all starts with working hard together and being pushed into circumstances where you have got to fight for each other and pull your mate through, whatever the adversity might be," Sekope Kepu said.

The veteran prop has a close friendship with Folau. He named one of his son's Israel and when Rugby Australia confirmed they were terminating Folau's contract, Kepu was among the first to publish messages of support for Folau.

 

The Wallabies won’t be distracted by Israel Folau’s off-field antics. Picture: David Swift
The Wallabies won’t be distracted by Israel Folau’s off-field antics. Picture: David Swift

 

It was those postings, and similar messages from other players with Pacific Island heritage, that had everyone worried that a rift was developing, but it just hasn't happened and Kepu said the team has actually got even tighter in the lead-up to the World Cup after they were put through some exhausting bonding sessions.

"I thought going to Noumea a few weeks back was a great opportunity for us to isolate ourselves," he said. "They don't do Vodafone roaming over there so the boys were able to connect and just play cards.

"The onsens (hot springs) here in Japan have been great for the guys who are a little bit shy to get everything off in front of each other. It's been great. Guys are pulling in other guys to experience it and get into it."

 

The Wallabies have formed a tight bond in Japan. Picture: Getty Images
The Wallabies have formed a tight bond in Japan. Picture: Getty Images

 

Kurtley Beale, who has taken over Folau's fullback spot said the sense of unity in the team was similar to the 2015 Wallabies. "There are some similarities, no doubt," he said. "One of the best things about the 2015 team was how tight we were off the field and that's an important one that I really believe can take us to the next step."

Defensive coach Nathan Grey said the team's sense of unity off the field would help them when they're under the pump as they expect to be at times in Sunday's Pool D clash decider with Wales.

"It's critical," Grey said. "One, being able to respect each other off the field but also when you are in the moments of battle you can rely on each other, trust each other."

 

 

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