Rugby: Top referee Nigel Owens slams Israel Folau's social media rants

Nigel Owens.
Nigel Owens. Photo credit: Getty

Leading rugby referee Nigel Owens has described Israel Folau's religious views as narrow minded and potentially "very, very hurtful" to a lot of people.

Owens, who is gay, said high-profile players like under-fire Wallabies star Folau needed to understand the influence they had over young, vulnerable people in particular.

In an interview with British radio station talkSPORT, the Welshman was highly critical of Folau re-asserting his homophobic beliefs in social media posts last week.

"There are some things in life that you can choose and your sexuality is not one of them," Owens said.

"I respect people who are brought up with religious beliefs, and some who are entrenched and will follow those religious beliefs, no matter how narrow minded they may be to the rest of us.

"Although everyone has the right to have his view, you then have to understand the consequences when you express the view that can be very, very hurtful to a lot of people."

Rugby: Top referee Nigel Owens slams Israel Folau's social media rants

World-class fullback Folau had until Wednesday afternoon to respond to Rugby Australia's breach notice or his contract would be terminated. He has asked for a code-of-conduct hearing.

Owens said he wouldn't officiate Folau any differently on the field if he did remain in the sport.

The same would apply to England number eight Billy Vunipola, who had voiced support for Folau and his beliefs.

"I've refereed those players in the past and they've treated me with respect," Owens said.

"I don't judge people, I have a job to do on the field and I will just referee what's in front of me.

"I think it's hugely important that rugby maintains that value and ethos of respect."

AAP

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