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    Date set for Israel Folau's 'Hell awaits gays' hearing

    2019-04-22 08:30

    Sydney - A code of conduct hearing to determine the fate of Wallaby fullback Israel Folau will be held on Saturday, May 4 after Rugby Australia's decision to sack him over anti-gay comments, it was announced on Monday.

    The devoutly religious Folau was informed last week of plans to terminate his multi-year, multi-million-dollar contract after posting on social media that "hell awaits" homosexuals.

    Super Rugby's all-time record try scorer had the choice of accepting the decision or challenging it through a tribunal, and opted for the latter.

    "Rugby Australia has today confirmed the code of conduct hearing for Wallabies and Waratahs back Israel Folau will commence on Saturday May 4," the governing body said.

    It will be heard behind closed doors in Sydney by a three-member panel - John West, Kate Eastman, and John Boultbee - with an extra day set aside in case needed.

    West is an employment law expert and senior counsel, while Eastman specialises in workplace discrimination. Boultbee is a lawyer and highly-regarded sports administrator.

    They will consider the case and decide what punishment, if any, is appropriate - ranging from a fine to a suspension or the sack.

    Folau asserted on his Instagram account that "hell awaits" "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolators". 

    It sparked widespread criticism, including from key Wallabies sponsor Qantas, with the scandal following a similar one last year in which he escaped sanction. 

    Rugby Australia chief Raelene Castle has said Folau had been repeatedly warned about his social media use but ignored the overtures and refused to apologise.

    She contends it was "a high-level breach" of the Professional Players' Code of Conduct which warranted his contract being terminated.

    Legal experts have suggested freedom of speech and religious freedom issues could form part of his defence.

    Folau - the sport's most marketable player before the row exploded - has played 73 times for the Wallabies and was a key part of their plans for the World Cup in Japan this year.

    Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has said it is highly unlikely he would be picked again.

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