Billy Vunipola warned about his future conduct by Saracens
Player will also discuss his online support for Israel Folau at RFU meeting
Billy Vunipola of Saracens during the English Premiership match against Bristol at Ashton Gate. Photograph: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images
Billy Vunipola has been warned about his future conduct by Saracens after his online support for the Australia fullback Israel Folau, who has been served with a termination of contract notice for repeatedly using his social media accounts to tell sinners to repent.
Folau, who has two days to respond to Rugby Australia’s ruling that he committed a “high-level breach of the professional players’ code of conduct” which merited his contract being ripped up, defined sins as “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, seditions, heresies, envying, murders, drunkenness and revelings”, quoting from the bible.
Vunipola, the England and Saracens number eight, liked Folau’s post, saying “there comes a point where you insult what I grew up believing in that you just say enough is enough. What he [Folau] is saying 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.”
Vunipola received support from some fellow players and criticism from others. He was booed when he came off the bench for Saracens at Bristol on Saturday and has since met officials from the Premiership champions. “We recognise the complexity of different belief systems and understand Billy’s intention was to express the word of God rather than cause offence,” said the club in a statement on Monday.
“However, he made a serious error of judgement in publicly sharing his opinion, which is inconsistent with the values of the club and contravenes his contractual obligations. The player has been formally warned about his future conduct.”
Vunipola said his intention was to express his belief in the word of God. “It was never to cause suffering. I can see that my post has hurt people. This is deeply personal and does not represent the views of my team. My Christian faith has sustained me through the ups and many downs of my life.”
Later this week Vunipola will meet the RFU, which will remind him of his responsibilities as a leading sporting figure, and of the consequences should he post something similar again.
If Folau, who was warned last year about the homophobic nature of his posts, does not contest the notice of termination, he will be sacked by the Waratahs and Australia. He has the right to take the matter to a tribunal, but whatever the outcome the Australia head coach Michael Cheika said he would not be picking the 30-year old again.
“Getting out in that disrespectful manner publicly is not what this team is about,” Cheika said. “When you play in the gold jersey, you represent everyone in Australia. You do not pick and choose. I have not been able to speak to Israel yet. I have left messages. There is no beef.”
New Zealand will also be without a full-back in the World Cup with Damian McKenzie ruled out until next year after suffering knee ligament damage. – Guardian