Rugby: Israel Folau drama fractured Wallabies before World Cup

Australia's Rugby World Cup campaign was destined for failure, with reports the squad was fractured over the Israel Folau controversy.

The Daily Telegraph has obtained court documents that show a key player boycotted a pre-tournament camp to protest Rugby Australia's handling of Folau, over his social media condemnation of gays. 

Veteran Wallabies prop Sekope Kepu reportedly refused to attend the camp, because of perceived marginalisation of Pacific Island players. 

Kepu and then-Queensland captain Samu Karevi filed affidavits in November, backing the controversial star in his wrongful termination case against RA. 

Kepu wrote: "My perception was that the media was briefed to approach people who would toe the 'anti-Israel' line and were discouraged from approaching potential Israel's supporters (including Christian players).

"The Wallabies' next camp after ­Israel's posts in April 2019 was around July 2019, before our Rugby Championship matches that year. I did not attend the camp.

"This was because I was so upset about the way in which management had handled Israel's situation that I didn't think it would be a good thing for me to attend."

Samu Karevi in action for the Wallabies at Rugby World Cup 2019
Samu Karevi in action for the Wallabies at Rugby World Cup 2019 Photo credit: Getty
Israel Folau wearing Wallabies colours
Israel Folau wearing Wallabies colours Photo credit: Getty
Raelene Castle - RA chief executive
Raelene Castle - RA chief executive Photo credit: Getty

Karevi was disgusted his employers had targeted Folau for his religious beliefs, when other breaches of the Code of Conduct policy had been given no more than a slap on the hand. 

"I found that very difficult to square up with the way others had been treated," Karevi stated. 

"All this made it difficult for me to counsel the more junior players in the locker-room. At the time, I wanted to support Israel publicly.

"I couldn't, because the players (including me) were told by management not to comment on the issue."

A divided Wallabies 

The Telegraph reports Kepu took his concerns to coach Michael Cheika and RA chief executive Raelene Castle, warning they risked a divide in the camp and that "Christian Polynesians in the teams were disappointed by the actions of Rugby Australia".

Kepu also believed Castle began to take the matter with Folau personally, which clouded her judgement. 

Folau settled with RA and is now playing rugby league for the Catalans Dragons in the UK Super League.

Kepu moved to London Irish after the Rugby World Cup, while Karevi departed for Japan.