Sydney - Star flank David Pocock says he "strongly
disagrees" with team-mate Israel Folau's anti-gay views but insists it
will not affect harmony within the Wallabies camp ahead of this week's Test
Devout Christian Folau, one of Australia's top players, has
been embroiled in a storm since posting on social media in April that gay
people were destined for hell, sending rugby chiefs into damage control.
Pocock, a strong advocate of marriage equality, said he
fears anti-gay social media posts by professional athletes will reverse steps
taken to make sports more inclusive.
"Having Australia's best rugby player using his
platform like that has the potential to really harm young people who are going
through some pretty rough stuff trying to come to terms with their
sexuality," he told the Sydney Morning Herald on Monday.
"They're (trying to do) that in a culture that clearly
hasn't become inclusive enough. The fact there are still no footballers in
Australia who are openly 'out', that says plenty about current sports culture
and our society."
But Pocock, who is making his Test comeback in Australia's
three-game series against Ireland after a year's sabbatical, insisted his
differing views with Folau would not divide the Wallabies.
"Absolutely (we can play together), I've got family who
have those views and we've had it out over the years," he said.
"The bottom line is they're family. You talk about it
in a civil way ... and when you do that you realise we've got far more common
ground than we have in difference of belief.
"I just don't see who wins if we aren't able to relate
to each other as humans and keep talking about things rather than having these
really nasty polarising debates to decide who is and isn't part of our tribe
based on their beliefs.
Folau said his bond with Pocock was as strong as ever after
a recent conversation between the two.
"Poey came up to me and we started an open conversation
about our different beliefs," Folau told reporters.
"We're both grown men and we talked about things. Like
I said, it was nothing personal and we respect each other fully. There's a
whole lot of respect in our team and I like that.
"It won't change anything when we step out onto the
field ... I'll be there to cover him and so will he (for me).
"We're 100 percent behind each other."
Australia play Ireland in Brisbane on June 9, Melbourne on
June 16 and Sydney on June 23.