Rugby-Hunt "feels for" Folau over social media row

Credit: REUTERS/Toby Melville

New South Wales Waratahs back Karmichael Hunt has expressed sympathy for Israel Folau with his team mate's career on the line over a controversial social media post but concedes the Super Rugby side must move on without him.

SYDNEY, April 23 (Reuters) - New South Wales Waratahs back Karmichael Hunt has expressed sympathy for Israel Folau with his team mate's career on the line over a controversial social media post but concedes the Super Rugby side must move on without him.

Fullback Folau, a fundamentalist Christian, faces having his Waratahs and Wallabies contracts torn up after posting comments on social media that gay people were destined for "hell" if they did not "repent".

"It’s a sad situation," Hunt told reporters in Sydney on Tuesday.

"I’ve got a personal connection with Izzy that’s gone back many years now, so to obviously see him in the position that he’s in – regardless of what his behaviours have caused – I still feel for him.

"There's a process in place now which is out of our control, out of my control and away from my personal beliefs. We as a team just have to worry about moving forward and the process will take care of itself in due time."

The Waratahs have stood down Folau and stated they intend to terminate his contract.

Rugby Australia will also tear up his Wallabies deal if Folau can offer no good reason for the social media post when he faces a Code of Conduct hearing on May 4.

Hunt and Folau share a special bond as the only two players to have represented Australia in union and rugby league, and also play top-flight Australian Rules football.

Hunt is also no stranger to controversy, having been arrested twice for cocaine possession at the Queensland Reds and only landing at the Waratahs after being thrown a career lifeline by coach Daryl Gibson.

With Folau banned, the Waratahs beat the Melbourne Rebels 23-20 on Saturday.

"Initially you have a pretty shell-shocked changeroom and I think that's just a natural feeling to be had regardless of right or wrong because he is a team mate," Hunt said.

"But the one thing about football ... you need to be able to move on pretty quickly, regardless of whether you have a 50-point loss to a team on the weekend or you lose a player like Israel.

"You've got to be able to look forward and worry about the week coming. That's what the guys have been doing."

(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

((ian.ransom@thomsonreuters.com; +61 3 9286 1447; Reuters Messaging: ian.ransom.reuters.com@reuters.net;))

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